Crystal Gala organizers earn UFV Betty Urquhart Community Service award

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Members of the Crystal Gala Foundation Board.

Call it kitchen-table philanthropy. Fundraising without the frills.

Every year, the women of the Crystal Gala Foundation put on a breathtakingly fancy and painstakingly planned gala fundraiser. Their goal? Raising money to support women undergoing breast cancer treatment in the Fraser Valley.

Since inception in 1999 the group has raised $1.8 million in support of breast health and are the Fraser Valley Health Care Foundation’s first million-dollar donor.

For their dedication to their community and the time and effort they have committed to raising funds for health care, the Crystal Gala Foundation members will receive the Betty Urquhart Community Service Award from the University of the Fraser Valley this year. Betty Urquhart was one of the first employees of Fraser Valley College (now UFV) and believed strongly in volunteering and giving back to the community. Betty passed away in 1995, but UFV keeps her memory alive by honouring a person or group exemplifying her commitment to community.

This year’s winners will receive the award at UFV’s afternoon Convocation ceremony on Thursday, June 11 at the Abbotsford Centre. The public is welcome to attend.

“We are so very appreciative of the Crystal Gala’s commitment to healthcare in the Fraser Valley,” says Jessica Boldt of the Fraser Valley Health Care Foundation, who nominated the group for the UFV award. “As a woman, I am grateful that such a shining example of strong women helping other women exists in our community. When women unite there are no limits… just possibilities.”

Gerri Charles was president of the group when it was founded and serves as chair today.

“We started out with a desire to fund tangible items that make a difference in the treatment and comfort of patients,” she recalls. “We wanted to fundraise for the best equipped breast cancer unit in B.C.”

The foundation prides itself on being grassroots, with no paid employees and very little overhead. Meetings are usually held in one another’s homes, sitting around the kitchen table.

“We like to say that we get boardroom results with kitchen-table overhead. It’s very informal. You can meet us in our businesses, or find us the grocery lineup, and we all use our networks to get the job done.”

Planning never stops for the annual Crystal Gala.

“The gala never ends. It is a labour of love, a birdie that sits on your shoulder while you’re having your shower, and it’s still their chirping when you go to bed at night,” Charles notes. “As we set up this year’s fabulous Gala at the Ramada, we’re planning next year’s event.”

While the Betty Urquhart award is being given to the board of the Crystal Gala, Charles says it’s really an award for the community of Abbotsford.

“We receive this award for anyone who has ever given us an auction item, bought a ticket made a purchase at our events. It’s a warm embrace of thanks for every volunteer who has ever helped with the gala. Our community is renowned for generosity and volunteerism. We have a big pool to draw from and that’s what we do every year.”

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