Supporters of Man Up Gadsden’s initiative to raise awareness for Men’s Health attend the Blue Ball in June. Photo courtesy of Teresa Taylor.
By Katie Bohannon, News Editor
A deluge did not stop Man Up Gadsden’s 2021 Blue Ball, with droves of attendees proving nothing could rain on the event’s parade.
Hosted at Court Street’s Harp & Clover in June, the third annual event garnered local and statewide supporters who share a passion for Man Up Gadsden’s mission and the Blue Ball’s purpose: advocating for men’s health and sparking a wave of positive change.
“The combination of everybody coming out each year and supporting us creates a really great and successful event,” said Man Up Gadsden co-founder Teresa Taylor, who organized the Blue Ball. “Without those volunteers, our board and committee members, without the sponsors and guests…we couldn’t do what we do. It’s amazing what the community can do when they support something.”
Man Up Gadsden formed in 2017 when Taylor and Clinical Urology Associates’ Dr. John Pirani discovered a lack of support services for men’s health in Etowah County. While Taylor’s seasoned experience with local nonprofits like Never Surrender and United Way charted opportunities for her volunteerism throughout the community, as the mother of two boys, she wondered why a greater focus on men’s health seemed absent. When Pirani, also the parent of two boys, shared with her an increasing number of cases for prostate and testicular cancer, the pair understood the necessity to act and inform the community of these threats – while assisting those in their own personal journeys to achieving wellness.
As the first 501 (c) (3) nonprofit in Gadsden solely dedicated to men’s health, Man Up Gadsden supports men of all ages affected by testicular and prostate cancer, focusing on preventative measures prior to diagnosis. The organization administers shower cards and pamphlets filled with factual and beneficial information, encouraging young men to schedule cancer screenings and self-examinations to promote early detection. Man Up Gadsden assists patients and families in a plethora of manners, from providing payment for medication, appointments and treatments, to offering transportation services, groceries or coverage for hospital bills.
To provide these services, Man Up Gadsden developed three major fundraisers to accompany its regular ‘blue rallies’ (educational sessions in schools) and lectures promoting awareness for early detection and prevention. September features Casting for Cancer Bass Fishing Tournament, with Dasche for the Stache 5K sweeping in November. Man Up Gadsden’s largest summer fundraiser, which served as its initial introduction to the community, is The Blue Ball.
From classic jeans to cobalt tuxes, guests donned hues of blue to create an ocean of support for this year’s Blue Ball, which – in similar fashion to its predecessors – sold out. Attendees mingled among cheerful conversation, delicious food, grand door prizes (donated from local businesses) and live music, enjoying themselves with dually promoting a worthy cause. Sponsors like the City of Gadsden, Team One Toyota, Harp & Clover, Advanced Imaging, Clinical Urology Associates, Clyde May’s, Riverview Regional Medical Center, Gadsden Regional Medical Center, Southern Immediate Care, Aligned Insurance, Doctors’ Kidney Care, Etowah Pediatrics, Family Savings Credit Union, Coosa Properties’ Dawn Gregerson, Anesthesia Associates, Spectrum Reach, River Bank & Trust, ABS Elite Business Systems, Nutdust, King’s Olive Oil Company, Jared’s Tactical and Firearms, Riverside Fine Jewelry, Blackstone Pizza Kitchen, Tuxedo Inn, David and Cherry Duckworth, Modern Woodmen Fraternal Financial, Exchange Bank, Nailed It salon, Salon Envi, Dowdy’s Office Equipment, LLC, Southern Data Automation, Inc. and Ford Insurance Agency represented their respective businesses at the event, contributing to The Blue Ball’s success. Combined with sponsorships and individual tickets, this year’s Blue Ball raised $30,000 for men’s health.
Taylor commended the generous sponsors and guests, who she highlights throughout the campaign and honors the night of the event. While on Man Up Gadsden’s Sponsor Tour, all sponsors receive credit for their contributions to the organization as an expression of gratitude from the board. Taylor shared that from the grandest sponsorship to a single $75 ticket, all efforts ensure Man Up Gadsden continues fulfilling its mission and aiding members of its community. Though a sponsorship might pay for a treatment or medication, one ticket provides 75 shower cards or pamphlets to distribute throughout Etowah County that could easily save a person’s life.
“I really feel that the sponsors and guests who are there understand that you’re not just coming to an event,” said Taylor. “Yes, you’re coming to have a good time and have dinner. We have great music and food, and it’s fun. But you’re here for a purpose – you want to be giving back.”
One sponsor – Nutdust, which manufactures all-natural body power for men – compared Man Up Gadsden’s Blue Ball to BourbonHam, a bourbon and barbeque tasting benefit in Birmingham that raises awareness for multiple sclerosis. While Nutdust sponsored BourbonHam’s massive event, The Blue Ball proved its representatives’ first visit to Gadsden. Impressed with the city’s beautiful downtown and river, the representatives from South Alabama shared they had never felt so welcome at an event, where they could discuss relevant issues regarding men’s health so openly.
“Every year it seems like we’re able to bring in a new sponsor from somewhere completely different, so they get to see Gadsden…and they love it,” said Taylor. “They love what we’re doing, and at the same time, they ask why there isn’t a Man Up in their city. Every year, The Blue Ball brings different people and different feedback, and everyone is generally very happy. It’s always great, and it’s exciting.”
Taylor applauded those who coordinated the event, assisting with set-up and decoration. From the City of Gadsden to United Way’s Day of Action team, to dedicated individuals such as Lynn Royal and members of Man Up Gadsden’s board, all roles work together to manifest something magical. Taylor reflected on Man Up Gadsden’s evolution, from its inception to now, humbled by the opportunity to help others and the privilege of making a difference where it matters most. The Blue Ball emerges as a representation of a community committed to uplifting its citizens, who believe in a mission of wellness and strive toward achieving that goal, year after year.
“To be able to find people, from business owners to medical personnel to parents interested in giving of their time throughout the year to sit on Man Up Gadsden’s board, to come to meetings and give us our ideas is just awesome,” said Taylor. “Every board member brings something different to the table. [These are] people who really want to make a difference. We have so many talented people within Etowah County who serve on different boards. I’m just thankful for those who have decided to be a part of Man Up Gadsden.”
“Every little thing that someone does helps us along the way, lifts us up and helps us move a little further to accomplishing our goals. Obviously, we would love to see where nobody is diagnosed – but if we even lessen that, one person at a time, it’s amazing. I’m thankful that every time we turn around, there’s somebody we’re in contact with who is willing to help.”