Celebrating the annual Mary D. Ball (at home)

Thu, 10/08/2020 - 6:30pm
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While Covid-19 may have posed certain restrictions for on-island events due to health and safety reasons, the annual Mary D. Ball will continue this year but with a 2020 twist: virtually and from the comfort of your home.

The annual event, which has been held each August at The Sullivan House, is a night of fun, food and dancing for the island community, celebrating and benefitting the Mary D. Fund and the work of Mary Donnelly; an annual event many consider to be the highlight of the summer.

This year, participants can celebrate the Mary D. Ball online on any given night they choose. There is no timeframe to participate in the event. Small groups can fashion their own Mary D. Ball to suit their tastes, and make it casual or formal and in a setting of their own choosing.

Island resident Marguerite Donnelly, daughter of Mary Donnelly, recently spoke with The Block Island Times about the Mary D. Ball.

The Mary D. Ball, created over 27 years ago, was “the brainchild of Jack and Helen Lynch, Mary Donnelly, David and Dottie Graham, and friends on one New Year’s Eve. Thanks to the Sullivan House and all of you, it has succeeded our wildest dreams! We have fantastic support from our B.I. community and visitors from near and far,” said Donnelly.

“Covid-19 cannot stop the love and the work of the Mary D. Fund and the ball. But like the rest of the world, we knew going forward we would have to adapt and accept change to make the Mary D. Ball happen,” said Donnelly.

Sadly, as we all watched Covid-19 cases increase across the country, we realized it would be impossible to meet in person as we do every August under the tent at the Sullivan House for the Mary D. Ball. A Block Island summer tradition for over 25 years at the Sullivan House with [the help of] Sean and Rosalie Kivlehan, Mike O’Brien and his family and our amazing team of volunteers who have made the Mary D. Ball a great family night of fun, dancing and dining to supporting the work of the Mary D. Fund. It is a celebration of love and community! I always say about Mom, the Mary D. Fund and all of you: look what love can do!” added Donnelly

Even though Covid-19 posed certain restrictions, Donnelly knew that the ball should continue in a suitable format for everyone to enjoy safely.

“We knew we would have to enter the virtual world! Luckily we could reach out to our committee lead by Chris and Molly O’ Neill, Sean McGarry, Liz Dyer, Bob and Linda Closter, Jerry and Jenny Noonan, Rob and Roberta Closter, Karen Taylor, Monty and Mary Stover, Pam and Ty Dickinson, Annie Hall, and Grace O’Neill! Thankfully, Grace O’Neill, a professional in the world of advertisement, took the lead with her mom, Molly O’Neill. It is a family affair as Grace for many years helped her grandmother Claire McQueeny do the flowers for the Ball. Jenny Noonan and the team have continued Claire’s tradition of beautiful flowers under the tent. Grace grew up going to the Mary D. Ball with her family and friends, and now, as a young professional, Grace has made it possible for all of you to bring the Mary D. Ball to your home or back yard or front porch! Wherever you celebrate, just be safe and stay healthy! Until we meet again at the Sullivan House, August 2021, be well and celebrate the Mary D. Ball at Home!” said Donnelly.

The Block Island Times followed up with Grace O’Neill to learn more on how to celebrate the Mary D. Ball from home.

Q: Can you provide background information on the annual Mary D. Ball event, and how it will compare to this year’s online event?

A: The Mary D. Ball is the largest annual fundraiser in support of the Mary D. Fund, a local charity founded and directly overseen by Mary Donnelly that provides direct support to island residents in financial need. This can range from food, shelter, utilities, medical care, and more. For the past 25 years, the Ball has been held at The Sullivan House, and has always been a memorable night for several hundred guests with dining and dancing.

Covid-19 has prevented the traditional Mary D. Ball from taking place, but this year’s event will carry on at your own home. We are encouraging people to host their own intimate events, and as Mary always says, “Dress to have a ball!” You can make the event as formal or as casual as you’d like, whether it’s a black-tie dinner, a backyard BBQ, or a simple soiree.

Another key element of this year’s ball is that it isn’t happening on a single date — you are free to choose whatever date works best for you. When you purchase a ticket online, you will be mailed photo props to use at your event, and ask that you submit photos and videos of your at-home Ball to be shared on social media so that we can all enjoy it together.

Q: Who came up with the idea of hosting the Mary D. Ball online? How did the online event come to be created?

A: The idea for the ball was inspired by the Treanor family, long-time Mary D. Ball supporters. The Treanor’s made the absolute best of lockdown and hosted black-tie dinners and theme meals for their foursome this spring, and we were inspired by their creativity.

The Mary D. Ball is the highlight of the summer for many past supporters, and we didn’t want to lose the spirit of the event because of Covid-19

Q: How can one participate and celebrate in the virtual Mary D. Ball?

A: We are encouraging people to host their own intimate events where the spirit of the Mary D. Ball can be celebrated at home with your family and friends (following social distancing guidelines). Anyone and everyone is invited to have their own ball, and we are asking that people make a donation in the amount they would have spent on tickets to the traditional event.

Tickets can be purchased on Eventbrite, and after purchase you will be mailed props to use when you host your ball. Those who donate $150 or more will receive a “fan head” of Mary D. herself, so that you can have Mary attend your party. Link to Evenbrite: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/mary-d-ballat-home-2020-tickets-114948279398

Q: Where can donations be made for the Mary D. Ball?

A: We are encouraging people to use our Eventbrite page to purchase tickets so that they can be mailed photo props for their ball. The link is found on our Facebook (Mary D. Ball – At Home) and Instagram pages (@marydball2020), or can be searched as “Mary D Ball (At Home!) 2020”. Check donations can be mailed to Mary D. Fund, PO Box 323, Block Island, RI 02807.

Q: Who should be contacted to learn more about the online event?

A: Send us a message on our social media pages (Facebook: Mary D. Ball – At Home) (Instagram: @marydball2020) or by email (marydball2020@gmail.com).