Amid swirling veils of color against an Arabian Nights backdrop, The Friends of Volunteers in Medicine Clinic enjoyed its most successful fundraising event to date at its Magic Carpet Ride Gala Jan. 28.

Thanks to the support of donors, sponsors, guests and this year’s gala committee, over $360,000 was raised for the Volunteers in Medicine Clinic, which provides free health care to uninsured Martin County residents who earn less than 200 percent of the poverty level.

“The Magic Carpet Ride was a total success,” said Stuart City Manager, Paul Nicoletti, who co-chaired the gala with his wife, Paula, a member of the FVIM board.

As City Manager, Nicoletti supports VIM Clinic because it provides a critical service to the community. He thinks this year’s success marked something of a turning point “out of the economic doldrums and into a new era of volunteerism in our community.”

Dancers Yvonne Dudley & Megan Miller greet arriving guests

As guests arrived at Mariner Sands, they were escorted up the breezeway under the swirling veils of the dancers, then met at the door by the Nicolettis. Inside, some guests really got into the spirit of the evening by getting on the floor with professional belly dancer and instructor, Yvonne Dudley.

In addition to the fine dining and dancing, guests bid on their choice of silent auction items that included travel packages, golf trips, artwork and baskets full of delectable delights, all of which were donated to the fundraising cause.

Don Harvey wins box seats to an NFL game

Among the team of volunteers were auctioneers Tom Lyng, his father Joe Lyng and brother Joe Lyng Jr., who got bidders’ juices stirring during the live auction. At one point, a sponsor made an impromptu offer of NFL box seats that generated some very lively bidding and an extra $1,600.

Other live auction items included a natural Black Tahitian pearl necklace donated by Just Gold Jewelers, and a 10.52 carat, multicolored gemstone earrings created specifically for the evening’s theme by Diamonds by Terry.

Vickie Dodds ARNP, models the Black Tahitian Pearls donated by Just Gold Jewelers

Mariner Sands resident Joe Day won the prize drawing of the evening — his choice of a selection of diamond jewelry valued at $10,000 by Vivid Diamonds.
Mark Robitaille, president and CEO of Martin Health System was the honorary chair, in recognition of the support MHS provides VIM Clinic each year. MHS supplies about $6 million a year in free diagnostic and testing services for VIM Clinic patients.
“As Volunteers in Medicine celebrates its 17th anniversary this year, we look forward to recognizing other outstanding contributors to our community,” Nicoletti said.
Mary Fields, VIM Clinic’s executive director said the gala raised more than half the clinic’s annual operating budget of just over $710,000. However, there is a huge multiplier effect because of the clinic’s large corps of volunteers.

“We’re able to provide more than $8 million in health care services because of our volunteers,” she pointed out. The clinic relies heavily on lay and medical volunteers, and the gala is VIM’s major source of fundraising.

So, while attendees had a good time, Nicoletti said, “more importantly, they see the benefit they bring to those in need.”

“The 2012 Gala represents all that is good and generous in our community,” he added.