By Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso
While the day-to-day work of the Navy-Marine Corps Ball Committee includes soliciting donations, addressing invitations, and mastering the protocol for hosting high-ranking officers and other VIPs, at the end of the day, the committee members know why they’re there. “I’m hoping I help change someone else’s life,” explained committee member Betty Kamp, whose husband is now retired from a 28-year career as a submariner. “When I joined the committee, I realized how much the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society fills in gaps for many service members who’ve become injured overseas or have an emergency or a pay problem. The more I learned about the Society’s work, the longer I stayed on the committee—now more than 10 years.”
The Ball itself has been a Washington, DC tradition for just over a century. “In 1914 a group of spouses got together to plan an event that would benefit the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society,” explained Karen Broadmeadow, this year’s committee chairperson. “It’s been an almost annual event ever since, and the committee members work very hard to put it together.” The responsibility of chairing the committee typically rotates between a Navy spouse for two years, then a Marine Corps spouse for a year.
This year’s Ball will be held February 4 at the Washington Hilton, but preparation has been underway for several months already. The committee seeks corporate and individual donations in advance of the Ball and conducts a silent auction at the Ball to round out its fundraising efforts. Last year the Ball Committee donated more than $345,000 to the Society, and Broadmeadow hopes to meet or exceed that amount this year.
Broadmeadow’s committee of 35 attends to every detail of the event, ensuring that active duty and retired service members, reservists, veterans, civilians who are connected with the military, and generous donors all enjoy a special celebration. The committee anticipates between 600 and 700 guests this year, decked out in their mess dress uniforms, ball gowns, and tuxedos. Entertainment will be provided by “The President’s Own” United States Marine Corps Band and the Cruisers from the United States Navy Band.
Committee member Meredith Lozar, who is co-chairing the silent auction this year, served as both a volunteer and employee of the Society before joining the committee this year. This will be her first time attending the Ball. “It’s been such a pleasure to return to the Society in a volunteer capacity,” Lozar said. “For the past several months, we’ve been out there sharing the Society’s story and soliciting donations. We have some wonderful experiences and items for people to bid on, including hotel stays, tickets for vacation destinations, athletic events, fine wine, brewery tours, and even a week in a gorgeous vacation cottage in Kennebunkport, Maine, for a family of 12.” Lozar and her fellow committee members made sure to include auction items to fit a variety of budgets. “We have these really awesome corn hole sets that were hand painted with the Navy and Marine Corps insignia just for the auction. Bidders can end up with a tour of a winery or just a fun game they can play in their backyard.”
Committee member Betty Kamp is in charge of invitations to the Navy-Marine Corps Ball, although some years she has helped in other capacities as needed. She also works to help set up and answer phones as the event draws closer. During her 10+ years on the committee, invitations have evolved. “When I first started, we sent more than 7,000 invitations,” she recalled. “I realized we were putting first class stamps on all of them, so I applied for a nonprofit bulk mail license and was able to cut down expenses. Now we mail out 1,300 invitations. Invitations are also sent electronically. We’re also moving towards more email invitations so, in the future, my position might not even exist.”
Kamp has volunteered for a variety of causes related to the Navy, but she says serving on the Navy-Marine Corps Ball Committee is one she’s stayed with the longest. “Because the Ball provides such important support for the Society, the people I volunteer with on the committee have been incredibly dedicated. They’re working to make this event the best it can be, and it’s always nice to work with people who bring a lot of energy to a project.”
Working alongside enthusiastic colleagues has been an unexpected benefit to committee service for member Becky Cederholm. “I’ve met so many people I would never have known otherwise, because we’re in different services,” she explained. “When you’re a young military family, you have tons of peers and it’s so much fun. As your Marine or Sailor becomes more and more senior, you have fewer and fewer peers because all your friends start retiring. It’s so awesome at this stage in the game to meet some peers who have lived similar lives. You haven’t crossed paths before but your kids are the same age and you’re in the same place in your lives. Cederholm’s responsibility on the committee is organizing the VIP reception that takes place just prior to the Ball, in another ballroom at the Washington Hilton.
By chance, as a new military spouse in El Toro, California, Cederholm became a volunteer for the American Red Cross, which was located right across the hall from a Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society office. “I always thought what the Society does was so important because the chief thing that messes up marriages in the service and service members’ careers is problems with money,” she said. “Most women on the committee have volunteered with the Society for years, but I’ve done other volunteer work. I thought it was too late to help the Society, but now I have the chance and it’s my pleasure to serve on the Ball Committee. I’ve been a military spouse for almost 25 years. I can’t think of a better way to spend my adult life.”
The deadline to purchase tickets for the 2017 Navy-Marine Corps Ball is January 25, 2017. To buy tickets visit www.navymcball.org. For questions, please call the Ball office at 202-889-8112 or send an email to email@example.com.