Little Black Dress Gala aims to raise $10,000 for cancer treatment

Tickets are sold out for the annual Little black Dress Gala, with organizers hoping to raise $10,000 for the Joe Lueken Cancer Center.

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The annual Little Black Dress Gala is set for Saturday, Nov. 6, at the Bemidji Town and Country Club to raise funds for Sanford Health's Joe Lueken Cancer Center. Contributed

BEMIDJI -- After a year off because of the coronavirus pandemic, organizers are bringing back the Little Black Dress Gala to raise money for local cancer care.

The event originated in 2014 as a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Since its establishment, the effort has shifted to fundraising for Sanford Health's Joe Lueken Cancer Center.

"We lost our local American Cancer Society representative, who was moved to Grand Forks, which felt a bit disconnected," said event organizer Calli Ferdig. "We thought about what we can do to keep the money local and keep it in the area which is more meaningful than sending a check to another state."

This year's event, which will be the seventh gala, will take place on Saturday, Nov. 6, at the Bemidji Town and Country Club. The event will include dinner, live music, a silent auction and speakers.

One of the speakers for the event is Audra Allen, the wife of Tom Allen, who died of cancer last year. Tom Allen was the manager of the Bemidji Town and Country Club and was influential in starting the Little Black Dress Gala in 2014.


Susan Jarvis, president and CEO of Sanford Health of Northern Minnesota, will also speak during the event on how the funds raised at the gala will impact the cancer center.

The event will also feature a fashion show by local area boutiques with models who have been affected by cancer in their own lives, or the lives of friends or family.

Tickets for the gala, at a cost of $50, are sold out and Ferdig said there's a waiting list with 10 people on it. Annually, the attendance has ranged from 130 to 150.

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Originating in 2014 as a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, the annual Little Black Dress Gala will raise funds for Sanford Health's Joe Lueken Cancer Center. Contributed

The goal of the gala is to raise $10,000 after expenses. Ferdig said the gala hasn't reached that goal yet but has come close in previous years.

"We feel very good about this year," Ferdig said. "We don't have numbers yet, but we do have some additional sponsors that we haven't had in the past."

The cancer center receiving funds opened in 2018 . The $12 million facility is 20,500 square feet and connected to the Sanford Bemidji Main Clinic. It has 20 infusion suites, 15 exam rooms, an infusion pharmacy and lab services.


The building was named after the Bemidji grocery store chain owner Joe Lueken, who died in 2014 at the age of 72 after battling cancer. The Joseph and Janice Lueken Family Foundation gave a significant lead gift to the initiative to build the center.

Ferdig said Sanford now provides event organizers with a community impact report showing where the funds raised by the event go.

"We have had so much positive feedback on giving the proceeds to the Joe Lueken Cancer Center," Ferdig said. "So many people at the event have utilized services there themselves or their family members have. It's a lot more impactful."

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