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Harmonious Hearts and Health

The history of the Heart Ball

By Damen Rodriguez

Photo Courtesy of Bonner General Health Staff and Georgia Simmons


In the quietude of Sandpoint, where whispers of snowy winds intertwine with the hushed secrets of the mountains, a symphony of compassion resonates. It's a sonorous ode to community health, a composition that finds its crescendo in the annual Heart Ball hosted by the Bonner General Health Foundation. This is not merely an event; it's a harmonious blend of history, dedication, and a commitment that beats in unison with the very heart of Sandpoint.

The Heart Ball, a radiant jewel in the community's crown, unfurled its wings in 2008. Picture a canvas of hope painted by the skilled hands of the Bonner General Health Foundation Board of Trustees. Their goal? Not merely to fundraise but to compose a melody that orchestrates the enhancement of services, the flourish of renovations, and the grandeur of substantial equipment acquisitions at Bonner General Health (BGH). This gala, this soirée of benevolence, is more than a night of revelry—it's a cornerstone of community care. Attendees, numbering more than 300, have become the honored guests at a banquet where compassion is the main course, and generosity is the dessert that lingers on the palate. Past Heart Balls have been architects of change, channeling their proceeds to reshape the very corridors of BGH. Emergency departments transformed, a second mammography machine acquired, and the radiology of trauma bolstered—each note struck contributing to a more resilient and robust health care fortification.

As the Heart Ball unfurls its opulent wings in 2024, it does so with a profound dedication. The spotlight of honor casts its glow upon Jack Parker, one of the founding figures in the narrative of Bonner General Health. Jack, a luminary on the original Board of Directors, was not merely a steward of health care—he was a visionary who believed in the symphony of education and health orchestrating the success of any community. In 1964, facing financial constraints that resembled an impassable mountain range, Jack and his compatriots embarked on a journey fueled by determination. Their destination? A new hospital for Sandpoint. Through the Hill-Burton Act, they secured an $800,000 grant—a key to unlock the doors of possibility. The hospital, a phoenix rising from the partial construction and a naval base's floatation, opened its doors in 1973, a testament to Jack’s unwavering dedication. For five decades, his baton conducted the melody of service on the Board of Directors. A charter member of the Rotary Club of Sandpoint, his words echoed like refrains of wisdom: "If you take from this community, you have to give back." In dedicating Heart Ball 2024 to Jack Parker and his family, the community pays homage to a symphony conductor whose foresight, generosity and wisdom continue to resonate through the hearts of those fortunate enough to have crossed his path.

As the Heart Ball embraces its role as a benefactor of change, its focus shifts to the pressing battle against cancer. The 2024 Heart Ball, with a dedication to Jack Parker's legacy, has a clear mission: the acquisition of a new endoscope. Cancer, a shadow that looms over communities, is most effectively fought through early detection. The endoscope, a versatile instrument, takes center stage in this battle. It transcends the boundaries of colonoscopies, casting its light on both men and women from the age of 45—a crucial step in the early detection of colon cancer. Yet, the endoscope's melody does not end there. Its harmonious notes resonate in the detection of esophagus and stomach cancers, uncovering polyps, tumors, inflammation, ulcers and an array of other medical nuances. It is not merely a diagnostic tool; it is a versatile virtuoso that plays a pivotal role in various BGH departments and surgical procedures.

Presently, Bonner General Health navigates the complex terrain of cancer detection with a lone endoscope shared among multiple departments. The Heart Ball's dedication to acquiring a second endoscope heralds a new movement in this symphony. This addition is not a mere encore; it's a transformative crescendo that promises to amplify efficiency throughout the hospital. With two instruments dancing in tandem, the BGH staff gains the ability to see and screen more community members. Simultaneously, the other endoscope finds its rhythm in another department, creating a synchronous dance of healing across the hospital. This efficiency surge is not merely a logistical upgrade; it's a promise of enhanced patient care and improved outcomes. Reduced wait times become the staccato beats of a quicker, more responsive health care system. Ultimately, lives saved become the magnum opus—the soul-stirring melody that resonates through the heartbeats of grateful families.

No symphony reaches its zenith without the harmonious contributions of its instrumentalists. The Heart Ball, a collective opus of compassion, extends its sincerest gratitude to the unsung heroes—the sponsors, donors and volunteers. In the words of Keely Gray and Justin Dick, the president of the Bonner General Health Foundation Board, "The success of the BGH Foundation and our Heart Ball is wholly related to our Foundation Trustees, Advisory Council, donors, sponsors, volunteers, and the BGH staff." Each penny raised becomes a musical note in this altruistic composition, with no administrative costs dimming the brilliance of their tune. Together, they compose a symphony that resonates beyond the walls of Bonner General Health, strengthening the very fabric of the Sandpoint community. The Heart Ball is not merely an event; it's a testament to the power of collective benevolence, a resounding proclamation that health care, like music, is a language that unites us all. To those who have contributed, and to those who will join this harmonious journey in the future, a resounding thank you—a standing ovation to fortify the bonds of a community's heartbeat.

The Heart Ball's dedication to acquiring a new endoscope is not just a practical step in upgrading medical equipment; it's a prelude to a new chapter in the fight against cancer, a crescendo of hope in the battle against a relentless adversary. The endoscope, with its dual role in detecting colon, esophagus and stomach cancers, emerges as a sentinel against the shadows of the disease. In a community where the age for a first colonoscopy is 45 for both men and women, the endoscope becomes an invaluable tool for early detection—a crucial linchpin in the overarching strategy to combat cancer. The impact of the new endoscope extends beyond its diagnostic capabilities. It symbolizes a commitment to proactive health care, where the emphasis is on prevention and early intervention. In the narrative of cancer care, this instrument becomes a protagonist, a guardian of well-being, and a testament to the Heart Ball's evolving role as a catalyst for positive change.

As the second endoscope prepares to join the medical orchestra at Bonner General Health, the anticipation of enhanced efficiency reverberates through the hospital's corridors. Currently, with only one endoscope shared across multiple departments, the addition of a second promises to harmonize the screening process, reducing wait times and increasing accessibility. The significance of this operational upgrade goes beyond mere logistics. It's a commitment to providing swift and precise care to the community, a melody that resonates with the ethos of the Heart Ball. With two endoscopes in play, the hospital's staff gains the ability to orchestrate screenings with a symphonic precision, attending to more community members in need. Reduced wait times, a hallmark of the Heart Ball's commitment to community welfare, become a tangible outcome of this expansion. The prospect of more lives being touched, more conditions being detected early, and more treatments being initiated underscores the transformative potential of this endeavor. In the cadence of health care, efficiency becomes a reassuring rhythm, a beat that echoes through the community, promising a more responsive and compassionate system.

The Heart Ball, with its rich history, dedicated honorees like Jack Parker, and transformative initiatives like the new endoscope acquisition, embodies the spirit of Sandpoint. It's a community that understands the value of giving back, a community that acknowledges the inseparable connection between education, health care and prosperity. As the Heart Ball's melody lingers in the crisp Idaho air, it beckons us to join in this symphony of caring. To the sponsors, donors, volunteers, and every member of the Bonner General Health community, this is a resounding thank you. Your contributions have not only created a legacy but also set the stage for a future where the heartbeat of Sandpoint continues to thrive—a heartbeat composed of compassion, dedication, and an unwavering commitment to the well-being of all.

The 2024 Heart Ball takes place February 3 at the Bonner County Fairgrounds. For additional details, and to purchase tickets, visit

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