I was sure I was going to miss it. The Jackson General Hospital Foundation Gala was originally scheduled for Nov.11, and I would be spending that weekend in Houston with my best pals from college. So after three years of attending Galas, I’d be missing one of my favorite nights of year, and I was kind of bummed (but not bummed about Houston. If you have the chance to go, let me send you to my friend Kate, who takes you directly from the plane to the best guacamole you’ll ever eat. We should all have that kind of hostess in our lives).

By a stroke of luck for me, and the very awesome acquisition of JGH by WVU Hospitals, the Gala got pushed back to Jan. 25, and y’all, I am super excited for it. Of course, it’s a wonderful chance to celebrate all that being a WVU Hospital will bring to our community, a chance to welcome them to our community, and a chance to raise money that goes directly to patient care (a cause near and dear to me, because of the excellent care given to my dad in the JGH Infusion Center).

Mostly, it’s a chance for us adults to have one of those nights most of us thought we’d never have again after senior prom. Lets face it, the opportunities to get dressed up and have a night out get slimmer and slimmer as we get older. So when we have the chance to do so, and for a great cause, we jump on it.

There’s a lot to enjoy at a JGH Gala, because Denise Toler and Foundation do everything they can to make it an experience. Under the creative hands of Kathy Cobb and Defining Moments, they transform the Armory into a wonderfully decorated space that’s on-theme, and really sets the tone for the evening.

When it comes to playing up a theme, Denise and company make sure the entertainment is on-point as well: there’s been everything from fire-breathers and Elvis impersonators to magic shows. My particular favorite was the Vegas theme, where I spent a good portion of the evening (and a good portion of my funds), playing the Raffle Ticket Roulette Wheel, because let’s face it, anyone who ever watched “The Price is Right” loves a good spinning wheel. Who knows what they’ll have in store for this years “The Sky’s the Limit” theme, but that’s part of the Gala fun: the surprises.

What is never a surprise is how good the food is. If you asked most people how they feel about hospital food, you wouldn’t expect to get glowing reviews. But ask anyone in Ripley who have regularly dined out of the JGH cafeteria, and they’ll tell you that it’s the best kept-secret in the county. Melanie and the staff can whip up an amazing prime rib, a divine chicken cordon bleu, and if you haven’t eaten a slice of one of their signature pies, you can’t really call yourself a Jackson Countian. It’s worth the price of admission for the dinner plate alone!

After dinner, you’ll want to partake in the real reason we all get dressed up in shoes that look great in pictures, but we immediately take off and shove under our tables: the dancing and socializing. Jeremy Casto and Partytime DJ Services always live up to the name, playing everything from old standards to the newest jams, and doing a great job emceeing in-between. He’s also very willing to hand over a mic to the people who just have to belt out a song before they head home (I’m not saying I’m one of those people, but I am saying those people drive my truck and look suspiciously like me).

Best of all, you’ll get the chance to really enjoy yourself. So often fundraisers are a lot of sitting, a lot of listening, and a lot of wondering when it’s going to be over, but the Gala is our once-a-year chance to wine, to dine, and really celebrate all the good things happening in the JCO, and especially at one of our core institutions. Hit the dance floor, table-hop, get your picture taken, and just get to spend time seeing everyone who, like you, loves the good things happening here.

So if you haven’t gotten your ticket, contact JGH, or purchase them at the door. Then put on your best special-occasion outfit, your dancing shoes, and get yourself to the Armory on Jan. 25, where the good times don’t end until the last chorus of “Country Roads” has been sung!