KNOXVILLE, TN – Friends of the Smokies gathered for an evening of elegance at Cherokee Country Club to celebrate Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) and to raise more than $725,000 for the park’s annual needs at the 2017 Evergreen Ball.
The fundraiser featured a silent auction, wine auction, and live auction which included one-of-a-kind experiences and vacation packages to the Tournament of Roses Parade and the Andes Mountains of Argentina.
The recent fires in Gatlinburg weighed heavy on the heart of Rev. Dr. Matthews, a North Carolina native.
“Our brothers and sisters on this side of the mountains have been through so much this past year,” Matthews said. “Let’s come together tonight and show the world what Smokies Strong looks like.”
At the close of the evening’s live auction Sharon Miller Pryse, President and CEO of The Trust Company and Friends of the Smokies board member, announced a challenge gift of $30,000 to establish the Cades Cove Preservation Fund in recognition of The Trust Company’s 30th anniversary.
Generous donations by the guests in attendance exceeded this goal, for a total of more than $75,000 dedicated to the preservation of Cades Cove. Cades Cove is one of the most popular areas of America’s most-visited national park, claiming more than 2 million of GSMNP’s 11 million total visitors in 2016.
Friends of the Smokies has raised more than $55 million in support of GSMNP since the organization was founded in 1993.
“After a challenging season, it is heartwarming to see the outpouring of love and support for the Smokies shine through,” said Superintendent Cash. “We are so thankful for the support of Friends of the Smokies and all of you here tonight.”
2017 Evergreen Ball Co-Chairs Tim Chandler and Sam Curtis with their wives Katie Chandler and Jody Curtis. The evening’s program was emceed by WBIR anchors Robin Wilhoit and Russell Biven, and included welcome messages by Friends of the Smokies board chair Rev. Dr. Dan Matthews and GSMNP Superintendent Cassius Cash. Photo by Bob Franklin.