Hear the name Gavers in this area and you’re likely to think Barndance.
And by the looks of the Gavers Community Barndance ticket sales, you’re likely to go.
“We are knocking on the door right now of being sold out,” said Steven Gavers, who founded the dance along with the Gavers Community Cancer Foundation after beating testicular cancer. “It’s our largest this year.”
The 14th annual fundraiser, which actually is under a tent and takes place at 5 p.m. July 20 at Emricson Park in Woodstock, is expected to draw about 2,500 people this year.
With a barbecue dinner, live auction and music, including country singer Rick Monroe, the rock band Dot Dot Dot and ’80s guitar pop cover band Hans and the Hormones, the event provides plenty of entertainment.
Hans and the Hormones are regulars at the dance, with a couple of the band’s members serving on the foundation’s board.
They actually helped come up with the idea for the fundraiser one night years ago while chatting with Gavers.
Though a celebration, what stands out for Gavers every year is the underlying reason for the event, along with people it honors. Through his foundation, he works to raise awareness of the need for cancer screenings as well as money for research.
Every year, he selects “Never be Defeated” award winners to honor at the Barndance. Three will be given this year, with the winners announced at the dance. They go to those who’ve gone through or are dealing with traumatic situations, with the key word being “selflessness,” Gavers said.
“That is the only word I can come up with. They’re dealing with very emotional, physical and mental ordeals,” he said. “They’re really not dwelling on what they’re going through. They’re like, ‘What can I do for someone else?’
“That is probably the biggest thing I do at the event. It’s my little satisfaction. I get to bring joy to someone else.”
The Barndance has raised more than $4.5 million since its beginning, with roughly 2,400 attending last year. Completely volunteer, the foundation donates its profits to facilities that help cancer patients, including Centegra Health System, Rush University Medical Center, the Family Health Partnership Clinic and the Wellness Place.
The event recently was honored as one of the best community celebrations in the country as part of a “Best of US” campaign hosted by Johnsonville Sausage.
The campaign narrowed 275 nominations to a Top 10 that were voted on through www.johnsonville.com. The Barndance ranked at number five, and earned $1,000 toward its cause.
Gavers credits the success of the fundraiser to its many volunteers, including 30 new supporters who offered to help out this year. The cause means so much to those involved, he said.
“I would say everyone on the planet is touched by it (cancer) now, either a friend or relative or someone you know,” he said. “The web is so thick that it’s one of those things that I think we need to do.”
With five class reunions scheduled to take place at the Barndance, it’s also become a place where the community comes together.
“The thing that sets us apart is we’re having a fundraiser, but we’re also having a lot of fun,” he said.