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In support of ALS

Nursing students celebrate 25 years of charity ball this weekend

Campus and Community

By Marcia Porter

The 25th annual Nursing Charity Ball takes place this weekend,  in person for the first time since 2019.

The ball will take place on Saturday, March 25, at the Holiday Inn in St. John’s.

Thousands raised

Since 1988 students from Memorial’s two nursing sites in St. John’s, the Centre of Nursing Studies and the Faculty of Nursing, have organized the annual event.

It’s proven to be a highly anticipated night out that features a three-course meal, a silent auction, entertainment and a chance to dress up.

It’s also resulted in thousands of dollars raised for community-based organizations.

“We’ve developed such a community within our committee.” — Sarah Watkins

Even during the most challenging times during the pandemic, the students supported local charities through virtual charity events.

“We’ve developed such a community within our committee,” said Sarah Watkins, a second-year nursing student at the Faculty of Nursing who co-ordinated this year’s event with Jessica Stephenson of the Centre for Nursing Studies. “It’s really nice because there’s less disconnect between sites. You meet so many people you wouldn’t have known before.”

ALS Society this year’s recipient

The long-standing collaboration reflects the partnership that has existed for many years among the province’s schools of nursing, where Memorial’s bachelor of science in nursing degree program is offered.

Faculty and staff across sites work in committees to plan courses, evaluate curriculum and recruit students.

Image of two women seated at a table in a hotel ballroom.
From left are Andrea Watkins, associate dean of satellite sites, and Lynn Cooze, retired faculty member, Faculty of Nursing, at a previous charity ball.
Photo: Submitted

They’re also big supporters of the charity ball, along with members of the larger nursing community.

Marilyn Beaton, a retired School of Nursing professor, remembers that first event in 1988.

Faculty and staff created and performed a few songs for an enthusiastic crowd.

They weren’t exactly singing for their supper, she says, but “I think we were the entertainment,” she said with a laugh.

Since 1988, the charity ball has raised funds for organizations such as Planned Parenthood, Street Reach, the SPCA, the Single Parents Association, the YWCA, Thrive and many more.

The beneficiary of this year’s fundraising effort is the ALS Society of Newfoundland and Labrador.

“The work that they do is so inspiring,” said Ms. Watkins, who hadn’t heard a lot about ALS until the Ice Bucket Challenge, a popular social media craze a few years ago. “They are based in Corner Brook, which is home to the Western Regional School of Nursing, so that’s really nice.”

Students from the new nursing sites in Gander, Grand Falls-Windsor and Happy Valley-Goose Bay are also participating.

Months of planning

Organizing the event is the work of the charity ball committee, a group of 60-70 students that begin planning early in the fall semester.

“It gives you a taste of collaborating the way that nurses do.” Jessica Stephenson

“Ultimately, when you graduate everyone is a registered nurse and it doesn’t matter where you graduated from,” said Ms. Stephenson, who’s also a second-year bachelor of science in nursing student. “It gives you a taste of collaborating the way nurses do.”

The two co-ordinators agree that working together in support of community organizations is very much in keeping with the spirit of nursing.

“It’s our job as nursing students to get involved with people and foster a healthy relationship with the community,” Ms. Stephenson said. “Especially these days, it’s important to show that you really do care and are trying to help.”

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