Elimination dinner helps raise funds

Hundreds gathered at the 24th Annual Tucker Community Foundation’s Uncle Sam’s Birthday Party elimination dinner Friday at Canaan Valley Resort’s Bearpaw Lodge to help raise funds for scholarships and grants, as well as take a chance on winning some money.

Diane Hinkle, development director for the Tucker Community Foundation, explained how the elimination dinner works.

“They will draw 250 tickets,” said Hinkle. “Every 25th ticket wins $150. In between, there will be door prizes. The last five tickets will have the opportunity to split the $5,000 or go for the whole $5,000. After that, there is another drawing for $5,000.”

The Tucker Community Foundation uses funds from the Uncle Sam’s Birthday Party elimination dinner for grant and scholarship awards. The foundation serves an eight-county region.

“This event was started by Dr. Tom Patrick, who was a much beloved dentist in the area,” Hinkle said. “He was the emcee for years. This party goes on as much in tribute to him as it is a fundraiser for the foundation.”

The Tucker Community Foundation supports many initiatives in the area, including mini-grant cycle and collaboratives such as Feet Under Seats, which was an attendance program in Tucker County Schools, the Potomac Highlands Food Initiative and the Business Development Assistance Group.

Patrick was a charter member of the foundation board of directors, serving from 1988 until his death in 2000 from Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Patrick is remembered as the originator of the Uncle Sam’s Birthday Party. He was a native of Charleston, and came to Tucker County in 1976 to establish a dental practice. Initially, his plan was to stay in the area only a few years, but he fell in love with the area, its people, and the outdoor activities and decided to make it his permanent home.

Many of Patrick’s friends still travel back to Tucker County to join in the fundraiser fun. One of those friends is Fred Myer.

“I got to know Tom when he was practicing in Thomas,” Myer said. “I moved away and Tom was still here, but I was in Texas when he passed away. I still live in Texas but my roots are here in Tucker County. I try to come home for my birthday each year and I come home to see my friends and attend this event and Mountaineer Days.

“I got involved in this event years ago,” Myer said. “It’s great they raise money for scholarships to help the students.”

Dentist Ken Rothschild, of Leesburg, Va., and former Courtland Acres Administrator, Mike Martin, who now lives in Williamsburg, Va., make the trek back to Canaan Valley for the dinner.

“We have been to eight or ten of these celebrations,” said Rothschild. “Tom Patrick was our best friend. And we come for him as many people do. He was inspirational you would never know what Tom was going through with his illness. Decades later, we still enjoy attending the party and seeing all of the people. It’s just amazing that this tiny county, rural as it is, has this much capability around philanthropy. It says so much about the people here. It’s phenomenal. You don’t find this where we live the comradery and doing that little extra. This is a big event and the whole aura of this area is rather inspirational for us and this is what keeps us coming back.

Donna Patrick and Amy Barb served as the party committee for the event, and David Cooper, president of the Tucker Community Foundation, was Uncle Sam.

“This is the 24th dinner and it started in the very beginning of the Tucker Community Foundation, Donna Patrick said. “The group was struggling to figure out how to pay for the telephone, envelopes and postage. So this was their general fund raiser to buy envelopes and paper. It’s just grown as the foundation has grown. It reaches out to the community. We are very blessed that we have wonderful raffle items. We have very little invested in this.”

Chris Stadelman served as emcee for the elimination dinner.

“This is one of the biggest events in Tucker County each year,” said Stadelman. “Folks really enjoy this celebration. People come from all over the state to attend and folks travel from places like Texas. It really is a special occasion for a great cause. Lots of grants and community support come from the help this event provides.”

Tucker Community Foundation Executive Director Rob Burns said he has been with the foundation for eight years, beginning with an Uncle Sam’s Birthday Party elimination dinner.

“We do scholarships and grants,” Burns said. “We also host the Run For It event which helps area organizations fundraise. This is the only event where we ask people to help the foundation itself but it is also a way people can help themselves by winning money during the elimination dinner.”