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COVID makes Snow Ball more vital than ever

Craig and Karen Gaffney, parishioners of Holy Angels Church in Basehor, are the presidents of the 47th Annual Snow Ball to benefit the Catholic Charities Foundation of Northeast Kansas. PHOTO WITH THE AUTHORIZATION OF CATHOLIC CHARITIES

by Carol Cowdrey
Sourdough Special

In the summer of 2019, Craig and Karen Gaffney, parishioners of Holy Angels Church in Basehor, were invited to chair the 47th Annual Snow Ball to benefit the Catholic Charities Foundation of Northeast Kansas. When they agreed, they had no idea they would become the first couple to lead a fully virtual Snow Ball gala on January 16, 2021.

“Initially, Craig and Karen were set to take the helm as Presidents of Snow Ball due to their deep love for the mission of Catholic charities and the incredible years of service the two have provided together to the ‘organization,’ said Lauren Solidum, President and CEO. Catholic charities. “No one could have expected Catholic charities to be the pivot (s) to ensure the agency’s doors remain open during a global pandemic.

“Craig and Karen took on every challenge,” Solidum said, “accepting the situation and facing it with creativity, humility and grace.”

While the Gaffneys wish they could celebrate Snow Ball in the traditional way, they embraced the new platform, seeing it as an opportunity to expand the scope and audience for the event.

Almost 2,000 people who live primarily in the Kansas City area attend the Snow Ball each year. The goal of the event for 2021 is to have participation in all 21 counties of the Archdiocese and beyond.

“For the first time, anyone can participate in Snow Ball from anywhere,” said Craig. “We realize that many may have turned away from it over the years due to expense or travel. Now you can enjoy Snow Ball more economically from the comfort of your own home.

Guests have the choice between several formulas, including “The Potluck”, which pays homage to the roots of the event. (The original snowball was a potluck dinner with a small group of friends that turned into the first gala.) All packages include an invitation to the virtual snowball mass celebrated by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann; a candid virtual reception and a live program; several menu options and Snow Ball favors; and the ability to join a Party Host session.

“There is new energy,” Craig said. “We were challenged to think differently about the event and how to better communicate about all of the great programs offered by Catholic Charities, especially during a critical time when the need for services is greater than ever. “

The Gaffneys dedicated the 2021 Snow Ball to longtime friends Ben and Betty Zarda. The couple, who have since died, introduced Craig and Karen to Catholic Charities 25 years ago as part of their annual golf classic, which will celebrate its 40th anniversary next May. Although they remain active supporters of this event, the Gaffneys have each strengthened their involvement with the agency by volunteering for other committees and event programs.

For two years, Craig was chairman of the board of the Catholic Charities Foundation, where he gained valuable insight into the agency’s mission to put people in a more optimistic situation. As Regional President of Country Club Bank, it has been personally gratifying to be part of the first bank to team up with Catholic Charities’ Kansas Loan Pool Project (KLPP), designed to tackle predatory securities and lending on salary.

Karen has shared her interior design talents at agency events including “The Gathering,” which raises funds for the New Roots for Refugees program. She withdrew her community volunteering efforts when her father fell ill, and she and Craig found themselves struggling with one of Catholic Charities’ ministries: Catholic Community Hospice.

“Craig and I took care of daddy,” she said. “We couldn’t have done it without their help. They are amazing helpers and we will be grateful to them for the rest of our lives.

It is the essential work that Catholic Charities does for all those in need that motivates the Gaffneys to make Snow Ball unforgettable, even if it means it will be a little different.

“Although no one before us has been in this position, that’s what God intended,” Karen said. “He chose us, and we must do what he asked of us.”

Their pastor sees little reason to doubt God’s choice.

“There could not be a better choice for the Presidents of Snow Ball in this most difficult year,” said Father Richard McDonald, pastor of Holy Angels. “[The Gaffneys] are so adaptable, flexible and always up for new ways of doing things. They are two of the most charitable and sociable people I know.

“As a couple and individually,” he continued, “they have for many years been incredibly devoted to the mission of Catholic charities. That is why it is more appropriate that they announce and rule over a new type of snowball We are all so excited to see the possibilities that come with it.

To register for the Snow Ball or make a sponsorship gift, visit the website at: