Artwork to be part of Paint the Town Red

Published 8:18 pm Monday, January 28, 2013

Area residents will have a chance to tell how the American Red Cross has made a difference in their lives as a part of this year’s annual Paint the Town Red fundraising event.

Paint the Town Red is one of the Coastal Virginia Region’s two biggest fundraisers of the year, and it’s especially geared to Western Tidewater, according to Patrick Belcher, interim executive director for the local Red Cross region.

“We’re looking for this to be a Western Tidewater-heavy event,” he said last week.

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The event is held each year at the Hilton Garden Inn Suffolk Riverfront, and it’s a favorite of people around the area.

Scheduled for March 2, Paint the Town Red is expected to sell out, as diners enjoy the service of celebrity waiters, along with the chance to bid on items in the silent and live auctions.

One of those auction items this year will encourage people from around the area to share their Red Cross stories in a “Lives Touched” artwork.

Belcher said the organization will be circulating a red cross on canvas around Western Tidewater and asking people to put their fingerprints on it. At the same time, they can write brief notes explaining how the Red Cross helped them in their time of need.

At the end of the two-week tour, the best stories will be collected and printed on the artwork, along with the cross.

“Every single person that we help, we provide them just a sense of normalcy,” Belcher said. “For all of them, they say it’s just like an out-of-body experience.”

When most people think of the Red Cross, they think of its mission to collect blood and disseminate it to hospitals around the nation.

But another of its core missions — disaster recovery — arguably makes an even greater impression on the people the Red Cross serves.

During the past couple of weeks alone, the Coastal Virginia Region has responded to help several different families following fires that displaced those families.

Each of those families had needs ranging from clothing to temporary lodging to food that needed to be filled, and the Red Cross is often the first organization to respond.

Describing one woman the organization helped after a recent fire, Belcher said, “To her, the most important things was the clothing voucher from Walmart, because that prevented her kids from having to go back to school in the same clothes.”

But the help doesn’t come cheap.

Belcher said the cost to provide three days of lodging, as well as clothing and food vouchers for a family of four approaches $1,000.

The Paint the Town Red event helps fund those costs. Belcher said the organization has a $60,000 goal for the event this year.

This year’s theme for the semi-formal event is “Rockin’ 80s Ball,” and auction items will reflect the 1980s theme.

Tickets for Paint the Town Red are $55 and may be purchased online at For more information, call Roxanne Whitmore-Kohlman at 325-8623.

The “Lives Touched” artwork will be available at Bayport Credit Union, 1463 N. Main St., beginning on Friday.