From the Heart’s 15th annual gala and auction is Feb. 4

From the Heart will host its 15th annual gala and auction on Saturday, Feb. 4 at Flight Deck Bar & Grill starting at 6 p.m.

‘It’s all been because of the community’

ROCHELLE — From the Heart will host its 15th annual gala and auction on Saturday, Feb. 4 at Flight Deck Bar & Grill starting at 6 p.m.

Proceeds raised at the event will equally benefit the eight area nonprofits that From the Heart works with: the Rochelle Area Community Foundation, HOPE of Ogle County, Rochelle Christian Food Pantry, Pegasus Special Riders, Hub City Senior Center, Shining Star Children’s Advocacy Center, CASA and FOCUS House. 

The event will include dinner, games, prizes and silent and live auction items. Last year, the event raised just over $68,000 and $8,500 was donated to each nonprofit. Over the life of the gala, over $630,000 total has been raised. From the Heart President and Founder Dave Eckhardt said he hopes to raise $80,000 this year.

“Back when we started, it only benefited two groups along with Rotary,” Eckhardt said. “Now we’re up to eight and that doesn’t include Rotary. When we started our goal was to raise $10,000 for each group. That’s why our goal is $80,000 this year, to give each group $10,000 once again.”

Eckhardt said 100 percent of proceeds benefit the nonprofits. He called it “amazing” to watch the event grow over 15 years.

“Other events around us haven’t been able to sustain it like they used to, and that has worried us,” Eckhardt said.” We’re a 501c3 nonprofit now and weren’t when we started. We’ve grown and have been able to do that. It’s been nothing short of miraculous. And it’s all been because of the community. The best part is presenting those checks and helping our nonprofit groups. That’s my favorite part.”

An individual ticket to the event is $95. Couples cost $185 and a table of eight is $700. To purchase tickets, call Eckhardt at 815-562-2200.

The social hour at the event will run from 6-7 p.m. Attendees will receive a free souvenir glass and champagne upon arrival. New to the event this year to celebrate the 15th year is a drawing all attendees will be entered into to win $500 cash. Dinner starts at 7:15 or 7:30 p.m. Everyone in attendance will receive a free photograph. 

The event will include a special tribute to the late Todd Smith, who was the gala’s photographer for many years.

Auction items include autographed framed jerseys of athletes including Jim McMahon, Joe Montana, Gale Sayers and Devin Hester, four quarters of beef and half a hog, an authentic ranching experience and a unique Field of Dreams piece.

“It’s autographed by the person who created Field of Dreams and he hand wrote his story,” Eckhardt said. “It will be a live auction item. Most of the money we raise comes from the live and silent auctions. It’s incredible to see the support of the community as the event comes together. Even from outside of the community. We contact sports memorabilia groups and wineries and overnight stays. Our goal every year is to have 100 silent auction items. You have to make sure you have plenty for everybody. We have everything from sports tickets to books and trips and more. And every year there’s something different.”