Valentines-BallMove over Martha Stewart. George and Mary Lee Grove are planning the party of the season, an elegant evening of dining, dancing and decadent desserts for 800 of their closest friends.

The Feb. 9 Valentine Ball—a fundraiser for the Beaufort Memorial Hospital Foundation—promises to be an affair to remember with some 50 private dinner parties followed by a black tie gala.

“It’s not just a huge ball,” said Mary Lee Grove, a former interior designer in Atlanta. “Before the ball, guests are invited to dinner at a private home. It’s a lovely way to meet people.”

The Groves are co-chairing the 2013 Valentine Ball with Beaufort Memorial Hospital President and CEO Rick Toomey and his wife Dr. Linda Hawes. The two couples have spent weeks recruiting volunteers and organizing committees charged with selecting the guests for each dinner party, sending out invitations and decorating the ballroom in the historic Lyceum at Parris Island.

Planning and putting on the event takes hundreds of community volunteers, many of whom will step up to host or co-host the pre-ball parties. Whether they cook or cater the dinners, they foot the bill for the private soirees, increasing the net profit for the Foundation.

“We don’t have to feed 800 people,” said Foundation Executive Director Alice Moss. “That’s what has made it so successful financially.

Last year, the ball raised $221,000 for the hospital’s Emergency Department expansion. Over the last 23 years, more than $3.7 million has been generated from the fundraiser. The money has been used to upgrade technology throughout the hospital and expand and improve facilities and services.

“We’ve seen the results,” Grove said. “The hospital has grown to meet the needs of the community.”

This year’s proceeds are earmarked for the expansion and relocation of LifeFit Wellness Services, the hospital’s medically supervised fitness and wellness center offering individual and group exercise, nutrition advice and personal counseling to reduce the risks of cardiovascular and other chronic diseases.

The Valentine Ball is the Foundation’s biggest fundraiser of the year and a much-anticipated social event in the community. But what has always set it apart from other charity events is the pre-ball dinner parties held in some of Beaufort’s finest residences.

“People in the community open up their homes and go all out to make it a special evening,” said Hawes, who has co-hosted pre-ball parties with friends in past years. “The dinners give each year’s ball a different personality.”

About 9 p.m., the dinner parties break up and guests make their way to the Lyceum for dancing, dessert and a silent auction. This year’s theme is “Evening under the Stars.”

“It’s a lot of fun,” George Grove said. “And it’s a very worthy cause. The community needs a good hospital.”

Tickets to the Valentine Ball start at $150 per person and include several levels of contributions. To receive an invitation to one of the private dinner parties, you must purchase your ticket by Jan. 14. Reservations can be made online at or by calling (843) 522-5774.


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