As I stood in the 27,000 square foot William Morrissy Grand Ballroom of the St. Paul River Centre a week ago, at roughly 2300, just an hour before the end of our fourth annual Blue Line Ball, I couldn’t help but take it all in. The dance floor was completely packed, the prizes had been won, the silent auction had been seamlessly closed out, the smell of delicious pizza filled the air, and the “best ball yet” comments were flowing! It was one of those moments in time where you remember your “why!” You remember why you’ve sacrificed sleep and stress for months; pounding the pavement asking for donations. The heroes that mean everything to us, safely engrossed in enjoying themselves in an environment where they knew how incredibly appreciated they are, were able to; if for just a moment, let the stress of their world go unnoticed. My own law enforcement officer (LEO) said to me the next night, “I needed that.” I knew he meant that with the current negative climate that whirls around our officers on a daily basis, he needed that night. He needed to get away, to be with his brothers and sisters in blue and to remember who he was and why he does this. I told fellow Backing the Blue Line (BtBL) members the following day, “If we didn’t raise a penny, but every officer walked out of there knowing that they are appreciated and we have their back, it was worth it!” However, it was even better than that, we raised a whole lot more than a penny, we raised 6,800,000 of them, $68k raised to reinvest into our MN LEO’s!
Planning for this event started back in the fall of 2016. We knew that we had to pick a different venue, due to overwhelming feedback about the rotunda being open to the public at the prior venue. Officers felt it was a safety risk and it greatly inhibited our desire to provide a secure evening for everyone. However, that wasn’t the only feedback we heard loud and clear from previous years. Attendees also voiced the need for an improved sound system, the silent auction check out needed to go more smoothly, the music needed to be better, and people were hungry halfway through the evening.
You let us know, and we got it fixed! We went with a new, safer venue, a greatly improved sound system, splurged on mobile bidding, spent more money on a DJ, and who doesn’t like a fourth meal of pizza? With those additions (focusing mostly on the sound) we had to inevitably increase the price of tickets, and while we did hear some negative feedback regarding the price, everyone overwhelmingly said the night of “it was worth it!”
The event had some of our tried and true traditions like the pre ball raffle, which we started selling back in December 2016, and ended up selling 6,497 tickets by night's end. Prizes in the pre-ball raffle included a cruise, two different Springfield 1911 handguns, a guided fishing trip, a signed Wild hockey stick and much more. This raffle was open to the public and non-ball attendees as our way of including those that cannot be with us at the ball, but still want to support our cause. Other things that we brought back from previous years was Jedd the caricature artist, the psychic, a formal step-and-repeat photo opportunity, ten large table raffle prizes (things like a fully stocked wine fridge, his and hers backpacking gear, and a at-home dry cleaning system) and the prize pull (think pull tabs, but with hundreds of opportunities to win everything from a $25 gift certificate, another handgun or $500 to Northern Tool!)
Not forgetting the Emerald Society pipe band, presentation of the flags by LEMA and the memorial table. We would never dream of getting rid of these points; moments that have made the event The Blue Line Ball which everyone has come to love.
New things this year were a state of the art sound system, professional decour by our very own Wendy Johnson from Repeat After Me Bridal (who does all our blue roses), mobile bidding by BidPal, a professional event planner from Do Good Events, and 2230 pizza!
What does BtBL do for the LE community?
Being an organization that is willing to step up to the plate and do whatever is needed for our law enforcement community, a lot of times we hear from people that they’re not exactly sure what it is specifically that we do. So another thing that we did this year was hire professional videographer Heidi Cullen with Flashback Productions to create a short film for us, highlighting exactly who we are. But why have us tell you, when you can hear it from those we serve yourself, so we interviewed some of our BtBL families, and had them share what BtBL means to them! See the video for yourself at http://bit.do/BtBLVideo. Other new things this year were our professional emcee, Leah Beno from FOX9 News, as well as our guest of honor, Sophina, an 8yo little girl with Down's Syndrome who just adores police officers! Sophina stole the show, and our hearts!
With all the fan favorites returning and the improvements that you all asked for, we walked away from the night with 89% of our guests saying that they were very likely to return and so many who weren’t able to be with us saying it’s not something they will ever miss again. It was by far the best Blue Line Ball we’ve ever put on, but we still feel we have room for improvement.
While our average rating of the event space and the hotels were well over satisfied, we’re still going to just poke around to see what else is out there as we did hear some say the four block walk at the end of the night was not their favorite part. The River Centre has assured us that if our event was held there again they will do a better job of stocking the bar and keeping more open. They did share they’ve never held an event that size with that many bars and ever had a problem. We definitely gave them a run for their money, selling out of our delicious signature drink, The Breathalyzer at 2200!
More than we ever imagined
While all of the above is fantastic and exciting, the most exciting part of this is that because we were able to raise $68k dollars, we have ensured that BtBL will be covered for three full years of our operating budget! After our successful 2016 ball we almost doubled the value of all of our support levels, adopted eight 2016 Not so Blue Christmas families, added a scholarship fund, and have adopted a Christmas in June family that we will be blessing with specific needs of their family as their LEO battles cancer. To see all the levels of support BtBL offers, visit our Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) document found at: http://bit.do/BtBL2017SOP. At the end of the day we love putting on a very lovely event, but it’s not our why, our why is our officers and our vision, to expand our reach to all Minnesota counties by increasing our supporters, volunteers and means to assist. We want our interactions to drive a high standard for how law enforcement officers and their families are treated during times of crisis and need.
We hope that you will join us in 2018 when we continue the tradition of our Blue Line Ball to help us support those who BACK the blue, and honor those that ARE the blue. We wouldn’t be able to do this year after year without our incredible LEO’s, our members, supporters and last but not least, our donors! So again, from all of us at Backing the Blue Line, THANK YOU for your continued support!
*All photos from our event can be found on Facebook @HoneybeePhotoMN