Event honors Ruth M. Counihan
The hospital’s 2015 Sweetheart Ball is dedicated to a very special person, Ruth M. Counihan. She is credited with being the driving force behind the creation of Fishermen’s Hospital and was also the first president of the hospital’s auxiliary.
The journey that will be completed at the Sweetheart Ball on Saturday, Feb. 7 started more than a year ago, on the 50th anniversary of Ruth’s death.
Ruth’s daughter, Laurie Brown of Buffalo, N.Y., called the hospital out of the blue last year and eventually got in touch with Kim Gregory, executive director of the Fishermen’s Hospital Community Foundation.
“I was looking for a meaningful way to memorialize her life and the fist thing that came to mind was her passion for Fishermen’s Hospital,” Laurie said.
Ruth was instrumental in educating the town about the need for a community hospital and gathered all the facts and statistics to prove her point.
“She did the research necessary to make crucial decisions, like how many rooms a hospital serving a town of our size needed,” said Gregory. “As a practicing nurse, she understood the issues.”
Ruth realized how it would increase property values for retirees looking to settle somewhere medical care was available; she convinced local leaders of the hospital’s standing as an industry that provided jobs as well as a valuable and needed service for tourists suffering accidents; and, finally, she understood more than anyone the fine line between health and sickness and how vital a local hospital is to those that need it most.
Ruth died at 35 years of age when her oldest of four children, Laurie, was only seven years old. One of Laurie’s most treasured mementoes is an editorial about Ruth published in a local newspaper around the time of her death.
“It’s even more profound because I didn’t grow up with her influence, and really never knew her,” Laurie said. “But it describes her community activism that, apparently, I share.”
As a child, Laurie didn’t grasp the big picture; the enormity of building a hospital from scratch. She did, however, get very excited about the town’s first ambulance. Her mother and father were responsible for its delivery to Marathon.
“It looked more like a hearse, than an ambulance, with fins and a big bubble light on top,” Laurie said. “It was the biggest vehicle I had ever seen. And my dad screeched into our shell driveway, spraying rocks everywhere, with the lights and sirens on. I thought it was the coolest thing and that my father, the driver, was the coolest thing.”
Laurie and her family— husband, daughter, brother and niece — will be attending the Sweetheart Ball, of course. And Gregory said it’s fitting to honor Ruth at the hospital’s 55th ball.
“As a member of the community, she played a crucial part in helping the hospital,” Gregory said. “And that ties in perfect with the hospital’s current role in the community. We are back to our roots and we need the support of the community, people like Ruth.”
About the party
Mark your calendars. The Sweetheart Ball is set for Saturday, Feb. 7 at 6 p.m. at a hangar at the Marathon Airport. Last year, more than 250 partygoers attended the event that raised $20,000 for the Fishermen’s Community Hospital Foundation, and more guests are expected this year.
“But tickets are limited due to the size of the venue, so it’s best to get them as soon as possible,” Gregory said, adding that ticket sales are jumping as groups of friends and family are purchasing tables to share.
After the cocktail hour from 6 to 7 p.m., the dinner hour begins. The meal from Green Turtle Inn in Islamorada includes such delicacies as lobster mac ‘n’cheese, turtle chowder (farm raised!), prime rib and mahi mahi. A video presentation starring locals such as Sherry Popham and Mandy Rodriguez highlights the hospital’s work and importance in the community and Dr. Boros will speak about the institution’s important partnership with Mt. Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach. Beverages will be for sale, sure to ease guests’ transition to the dance floor to grove to the tunes of the Brian Roberts band. There will also be a photo booth and silent auction, including the chance to win a flight from PlaneSense, a fractional aircraft ownership firm.
The Sweetheart Ball is being put together by a committee of 13 who tracked down many sponsorships to make it possible ranging from doctors to realtors to banks to an automobile dealership too numerous to mention here.
“This event, and others like it, make it possible for the Fishermen’s Community Hospital Foundation to provide core support. We help the hospital with building upgrades and equipment purchases,” Gregory said.
Other events that benefit the hospital foundation include the annual hat-making and
Kentucky Derby party, and the Craft Beer and Bubbly Fest held late last month.
This is the 55th year of the Sweetheart Ball.
55th Sweetheart Ball
Saturday, Feb. 7 at 6 p.m.
At Marathon Jet Center
Tickets are $100 each, or $1,000 for table of ten