ROCHELLE — The 16th annual From the Heart Gala & Auction was held Saturday, Feb. 3 at the hangar at Flight Deck Bar & Grill in Rochelle. The event saw 311 people attend and raised a record $90,000, breaking its previous mark of $80,000 in 2023.
Proceeds raised at the event will equally benefit the eight area nonprofits that From the Heart works with: the Rochelle Area Community Foundation, HOPE of Ogle County, Rochelle Christian Food Pantry, Pegasus Special Riders, Hub City Senior Center, Shining Star Children’s Advocacy Center, CASA and FOCUS House. Each nonprofit will receive $11,250.
“The generosity of the community was just incredible,” From the Heart President and Founder Dave Eckhardt said. “Everything we did, did the best it’s ever done. All of our games and silent auction items did very well. The live auction way surpassed what we've done in the past. That's what made the event such a success, because we were able to raise $90,000. The group just did a tremendous job. Every organization we support helped out and the From The Heart committee did a tremendous job. We're very fortunate.”
From The Heart has hit the $800,000 mark in funds raised since its inception. When the organization started, it benefited only two nonprofit groups along with the Rochelle Rotary Club. The goal at that time was to raise $10,000 for each group. From the Heart is now a 501c3 nonprofit and its own entity to raise money for its eight nonprofits.
“I can’t say enough about the community and the generosity that it shows each and every year,” Eckhardt said. “Our event wouldn't be what it is without all of the generosity of the people that show up. It’s just amazing and it’s so cool to see it all come together. It's beyond my wildest dreams. When we started this, our first year we just tried to raise $30,000. And now we're making $90,000. We never saw that coming. It's very neat.”
Eckhardt said preparation for the gala is done over an entire year, and the first meeting for 2025 will be held this week. The day of the gala takes “a lot of work” starting in the morning. He thanked those that helped with the work.
The community is what allows From the Heart to grow its fundraising efforts each year, Eckhardt said.
“I think we're able to grow the amount each year because people enjoy coming and helping the cause and they have fun,” Eckhardt said. “It's all of that combined. It's a night out and it's in the winter time when people have been stuck in the house. It gives people a chance to get out and enjoy themselves and also contribute to all of our nonprofit groups.”
With growing attendance numbers, the gala has started to reach capacity limits at its venue.
“When we started this, we never thought it’d go on for 16 years,” Eckhardt said. “And we never thought we'd grow to what we are. We didn’t see it having its own 501c3 designation. But we got to the point where we could do it. Now it's getting to a point where we're just about at our capacity at our venue. How do we go to the next level? It’s just a tremendous thing to be able to give more to our nonprofits. All of these organizations need more money. It's just amazing that we're able to help them out as much as we are. There's so many people that help with all of this and I can't thank them enough. Without them, this doesn't happen. It's very cool that we get to do what we do.”