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February 25, 2020

First Harvest Moon Ball brought out glitterati

The first annual Harvest Moon Gala, last Saturday night, celebrated one of Gilroy’s most important businesses, St. Louis Hospital’s completion of the emergency department renovation and two new breast care centers. The community’s glitterati, many in ball gowns and tuxedos, showed up in force at Guglielmo Winery where the fundraising cocktail party and dinner were held.
A veritable who’s who in town included Frank Angelino, the chairperson of the St. Louise Regional Hospital Foundation Board of Trustees, along with other fellow-board event members Mary Beth Anderson, event chair, Katie Robinson, senior director of development for O’Connor and St. Louise Hospitals and Rocce and Glenda Garcia, incoming vice-president of the foundation and deputy chair of the event.
Other attendees included Morgan Hill’s mayor, Steve Tate, Dennis O’Donnell, sports director at KPIX news, J.Chris and Larry Mickartz, publishers of GMH Today and orthodontist Dr. Bas Wafelbakker.
Debbi Sanchez, also a foundation board member and co-chair of the event and recipient of Gilroy’s Volunteer of the Year 2017 award and breast care survivor gave a moving speech about her experience with cancer. When Sanchez asked the audience to stand up if they had been touched by cancer–either themselves or someone they loved– at least 30 people stood in support.
The gala was also in honor of George Chiala, the past chairperson of the foundation who passed away this past January. For many years, Chiala opened his home to have the annual fundraising event for the hospital. The Chiala family established a memorial fund to continue improvements in facilities and patient services.
“George was passionate about healthcare and finding ways to improve it,” said Anderson. “The reason most people are here tonight is because of their love for George and what he was passionate about.”
Not only was this the first year without Chiala at the helm, it was also the first year that St. Louise Hospital is under new ownership. Dr. Patrick Soon Shiong recently purchased the system of hospitals from the Blue Mountain Group and Verity Management group, which had earlier bought the hospitals from the Daughters of Charity. Any worry of attendance was soon forgotten when the 350 tickets quickly sold out with a waiting list of 40 additional people.
Anderson explained, “Dr. Shiong has made a substantial investment in the six hospitals within the Verity group: Seton Hospital in Daly City, O’Connor in San Jose, two in southern California and the two local St. Louise locations here in Morgan Hill and Gilroy.”
The new emergency room is located at the Gilroy site. The two new breast care centers are equipped with digital, state-of-the-art mammography machines.
“We estimate that the 16,000 women residing in South County now have access to these state-of-the-art mammography centers.We are hoping to raise money during our Fund A Need auction tonight to offer free mammograms to the uninsured and anyone else in need.”
Another live auction event offered coveted items such as a beach house vacation stays, a cruise to Fiji and Warrior tickets. Board Chair Frank Angelino encouraged attendees to bid on the auction items. “The event tonight is raising money for the George Chiala foundation. George was a huge part of St. Louise and everyone on the board is hoping to live up to the legacy he left behind.”
Katie Robinson gave kudos to the board for putting on the event. “This is the best, most committed and generous board I’ve ever worked with. They’ve picked up the baton and run with it with incredible results.”
The Houserockers, a high-energy rock band, followed the harvest moon theme by performing their opening song, “Dancing in the Moonlight Moon” by King Harvest. The dinner, served in the outdoor pavilion at Guglielmo Winery, featured Justin’s Catering.
When the Fund A Need was done, the total amount raised was cause for celebration. “The Fund A Need raised over $82,000, the most ever in the foundation’s history,” said Sanchez. “At $100 per screening, this money will fund 820 plus, free mammograms for the underserved women in our community.”
Summing up the successful evening, Garcia mused, “George would have been delighted to see the community come out like this to support the hospitals. George Chiala was the best person I ever knew.”

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