Wine Fest helps raise U pediatric funds

by Nathan Hall

Well-heeled downtown Minneapolis denizens sampled from more than 300 wines and munched on dozens of exotic hors d’oeuvres this weekend in a gala designed to raise funds for the University’s pediatric department.

The two-day, eighth annual Wine Fest was held at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Tickets were $60, with half considered tax deductible.

“I do this because it’s for a good cause and I like wine,” said Dottie Hammer, a Wine Fest volunteer and retired human resource director. “I’ve never done it before and I wanted to try it – plus I get a free T-shirt.”

The event included a black-tie dinner hosted by local television personalities with music provided by a smooth jazz quartet and a disco cover band. Silent auction items included a 25-pound salted nut roll and a wine label autographed by actress Whoopi Goldberg.

“I think this is a fabulous event,” said Dr. Brenda Weigel, a University assistant professor of pediatrics hematology and oncology. Weigel was presented Saturday night with the 2003 University Pediatrics Foundation Scholar Award for her work on immunotherapy research. Weigel said she plans to use the award as a “building block” for eventually applying for a National Institutes of Health grant.

Wine tasters dined on unusual fare including gemelli pasta with scallops, ricotta salata with chestnut honey, apricot infused crab ceviche and seared tuna.

Jodi Schoh, an account manager for Culligan International Co., said this was her first time to volunteer for the festival. Schoh, an alumna of the University business fraternity Delta Sigma Pi, said a “brother” of the fraternity helped get her involved in helping out.

“Events like Wine Fest are important because they show a community willing to come out and support world class research being done right here in their own back yard,” said Dan Saftig, vice president for communications for the medical foundation.

“I think using wine sampling to raise money for kids health is appropriate because wine is a culinary use of alcohol, but also because it’s accepted amongst the socialite crew that would have the discretionary income to sponsor pediatric research,” said Steve Gaiser, a small business owner who was attending the festival for the first time.

Organizers said they have raised more than $3 million dollars for University pediatrics research from the seven past Wine Fests. The University Pediatrics Foundation raises approximately $6 million per year for children’s health research through fund-raisers such as Wine Fest. The foundation is a subsidiary of the University-affiliated nonprofit Minnesota Medical Foundation.

The Minnesota Medical Foundation also is sponsoring two golf tournaments this summer. Tickets for those events range from $225 to $1,000 per head.

“This is obviously a more adult-focused event versus the more family-focused event we have with the Party in the Park at Camp Snoopy,” said Sandra Landberg, the pediatric foundation’s development director. Landberg said they hope to raise a total of $500,000 for the event, projecting the total estimated turnout at approximately 1,300 attendees.

The medical foundation received high marks from St. Paul-based nonprofit watchdog group Charities Review of Minnesota and New Jersey-based Charity Navigator.

According to their 2002 financial statement, the medical foundation took in $24,117,865 in revenue but spent $42,915,004 on functional expenses.

Nathan Hall covers University research and technology and welcomes comments at [email protected]