In addition to 19 young ladies in white formal gowns, four young gentlemen in white tuxedos welcomed 380 guests to the 37th PACA Ball on Saturday night.

Since it began in 1971, the gala event to benefit Pattie A. Clay Regional Medical Center has provided an opportunity for Madison County families to introduce their teenaged daughters to community service.

In the future, the ball should have junior hosts as well as hostesses, said Debbie Crafton, chair of this year’s ball.

As they lined both sides of the walkway into the tent set up at Richmond’s Lake Reba Park, the junior hostesses seemed delighted to have guys join them in what had previously been a girls-only affair.

“It’s awesome to have the guys join us,” said junior hostess Angela Lamb as she and twin sister Lindsey stood next to Will Kelly.

“Will is fun to be around,” Lindsey said.

Kelly relished his role.

“It feels pretty good being around all these attractive women,” he said.

“I think more guys will get involved next year.”

The hosts got lots of smiles and grins as guests arrived for the ball, Kelly said.

Seeing junior hosts and well as hostesses in the receiving line took some guests by surprise, said Chris Browder.

“It’s kind of funny, really. I guess they hadn’t heard there would be hosts this year,” he said.

Ball organizers also had to get used to the new coed arrangement.

“Often somebody would call out, ‘ladies,’ and then have to say, ‘ladies and gentlemen,’” Browder said.

“This is a wonderful evening,” said junior hostess Ally Hatfield. “I love getting dressed up, and the weather has turned out to be so pleasant.”

In contrast to recent years when temperatures ranged in the upper 80s for the ball, temperatures Saturday evening were in the mid- to low 70s.

“Having the guys join us just makes it all more interesting,” Hatfield said.

Organizers had some anxious moments Friday evening as they met in the tent.

A thunderstorm knocked down three side tents, one on each end and on the back of the main tent, Crafton said, and rain flooded much of the ground.

“Our tent vendor was there Saturday at 8 a.m. to replace the damaged tents,” she said. “Thanks to some donated fans and a dry Saturday afternoon, everything was perfect when our guests arrived.”

Some expenses remain to be paid and a few donations are still to come, but Crafton said she was confident that the ball would reach its $60,000 fundraising goal. The Pattie A. Foundation will use the money to help renovate the medical center’s third and four floors.

The money came from the sale of $100 tickets and a silent action, was well as corporate sponsors and underwriters.

The primary sponsor was Anthem health insurance with secondary sponsorship coming from University of Kentucky Health Care. They were joined by 19 underwriters.

Billie Jean Kelly, who chaired last year’s ball, was named Pattie A. Clay Auxiliary member of the year.

Sponsored by the auxiliary, the ball is organized by a chair and co-chair, with the co-chair acceding to chair after one year.

Diane Gibson, this year’s co-chair, will take the lead in organizing the 2009 ball.

Crafton and Gibson were joined this year by 23 committee chairs and dozens of other volunteers.

Bill Robinson can be reached at brobinson@richmondregister.com or at 623-1669, Ext. 267.

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