Scores of Big Rapids residents attend Spectrum’s Block Party, enjoy fellowship

BIG RAPIDS – The sky may have been overcast and gloomy earlier this week, but the clouds parted ways just in time for Spectrum Health Big Rapids Hospital Auxiliary Community Block Party Thursday evening. The event attracted dozens of people who came to enjoy good weather, music, food and celebrate community.

“I look forward to the block party each year,” said Tom Hogenson, executive director of the Big Rapids Hospital Foundation. “I just hope everyone has a wonderful time.”

The annual summer tradition is organized by the Hospital Auxiliary and functions as a way to bring community members together. Attendees purchased tickets for picnic fare, such as hot dogs and sloppy Joes, ice cream sundaes and homemade pies donated by members of the auxiliary. They were then treated to entertainment provided by STAGE-M and the Ferris Community Summer Band.

All money collected at the party went to the hospital’s Health Careers Scholarship Fund.

Hogenson said the hospital plans to continue the event each year, despite the fact that it merged with Spectrum Health last summer. “As long as people support it, we intend to keep holding the block party,” he said. “If it’s unsuccessful, then we will consider not holding it any longer. We like having these types of things for the community. I’ve been here for 40 years, and it was going on even before I got here. It’s been going on for a long time.” Dozens of community members turned out to show their support for the hospital. “I come to the party for the music, the food and to support the auxiliary,” said Jeff Godfrey, who has been coming to the block party for three years. Michele Christner, the former president of the Hospital Auxiliary, also presented a $25,000 donation to board member Wayne O’Neil for the hospital’s current renovation project of converting double-patient rooms on the third floor to single-patient rooms. “A hospital is vital to a community,” Christner said. “It’s so important, especially when you consider growth. Similar to how a good school system will attract more people to a community, having a good hospital attracts new families to move in.” Aside from fellowship, the event also was a chance for the hospital, which partners with Ferris State University each year, to present several health career scholarships.

This year, the scholarships were presented to Corrin Simon, a graduate of Chippewa Hills High School, Jennifer Mynhier, who works in patient access at Spectrum Health Big Rapids and Ashley Woodside, a Reed City High School graduate. Each received $2,000, with Simon and Mynhier pursuing nursing while Woodside will work toward a degree in radiology.

The night also witnessed current president of Spectrum Health Big Rapids and Reed City hospitals Sam Daugherty handing over the keys of the building to new president Mary Kay VanDriel, who was hired earlier this month.

Members of the auxiliary also took the time to volunteer at the party. Members served food alongside members of the Big Rapids Jaycees. They also baked pies and contributed to the bake sale.

“The block party is a great opportunity to bring the community together for a good cause, and it’s fun,” Christner said. “For the past two years, Resurrection Life Church has helped set up the tables and chairs, which are provided by Ferris. We call on a lot of people in the community to help produce this. The support is wonderful.”

The evening also provided entertainment for attendees, through two performances from STAGE-M and a concert performed by the Ferris Community Summer Band.

“We always get a lot more people coming to the block party when it’s closer to the band’s performance time,” Hogenson said.

STAGE-M presented two musical numbers from its summer production, “Willy Wonka.” Andy Kirby, who plays Willy Wonka in the show, sang “Pure Imagination.” He was followed by Josh Fullmer, who plays Charlie Bucket in the show, singing “Think Positive.”

The Ferris Summer Community Band then presented a program that featured soloist and guest conductor Erik Janners of the Marquette University in Wisconsin.

Whether it was purchasing a hot dog, or sitting and enjoying the music, the Big Rapids community showed its support for the hospital Thursday night.

“When you throw an event like this, you want it to tell a story of who you are,” Hogenson said. “We want to bring together the people in our neighborhood who have given us nothing but strong support.”