Bells were ringing on April 17th as women from around Porter County gathered to play some good old-fashioned Bunco. United Way of Porter County hosted their 2nd Annual Women United Bunco Bash at Spa Special Events Center in Porter. Sponsored by Porter Regional Hospital, the event offered a fun, social opportunity to support United Way’s mission to uplift lives in Porter County.
“[At United Way,] we are focused on areas of health, education and financial stability, particularly as it relates to the women and children in our community,” said Kasie Tenbarge, Director of Development for United Way of Porter County. “This event supports our Women United initiative; all of the ticket proceeds for the evening go toward that cause.”
Local businesses in Northwest Indiana donated all of the prizes for the evening, guaranteeing that no guest would leave empty-handed. The prizes consisted of everything from gift cards to perishables to baskets full of spa goodies.
“We live in a really generous community!” Tenbarge said. “We’re really thankful.”
Kim Olesker, President and CEO of United Way of Porter County, expressed her excitement for the evening’s dual purpose.
“We’re all rolling the dice, and yet we get to share a mission moment with them,” said Olesker. “The fact that you can get 100 women together in a room and have a little bit of competition but a lot of fun—that’s huge.”
Olesker applauded Dr. Nicky Jackson for helping to organize the event for two years in a row.
“I love to play Bunco; I’ve been in a Bunco group for 20 years,” said Dr. Jackson, a criminal justice professor at Purdue University Northwest. “I was actually meeting with somebody from United Way about something [unrelated] and I said, ‘Oh, I have to run to Bunco.’ And she said, ‘Hey! What do you think about doing a Bunco event for United Way?’ And so that’s how it came to be!”
As simply as that, a new tradition was unearthed.
Both Olesker and Tenbarge were thrilled to have Porter Regional Hospital as their premiere sponsor. In addition to the games and relaxed fundraising, they featured Dr. Maya Kommineni, a Porter Regional Hospital cardiovascular specialist, as a speaker.
“Heart problems and cardiac arrest are the number one killers of women, so I think it’s really important to be able to share that message out to a roomful of women—a captive audience,” Olesker said.
Dr. Kommineni delivered a short, powerful message about the importance of women putting their health needs first, especially with cardiovascular disease remaining the number one killer among women.
“You’re really the center of your universe—your whole family rotates around you, and you multitask,” Dr. Kommineni said. “There’s no time for you to stop and think about subtle changes. Men are very different. Men are pretty singularly focused.”
Dr. Kommineni earned a round of laughs for her observation.
“Sorry,” Dr. Kommineni apologized to the one male in the room, chuckling along with her fellow females.
As the Bunco-playing began in earnest, even the attendees that came with friends, coworkers, or pre-established Bunco groups left the event with new pals and acquaintances. The game requires players to shuffle from table to table, depending on who rolls the correct number of dice and when. A bell announces switching time.
“You mix and mingle all night long because your partners change tables,” Olesker explained. “So you’re never with the same people the whole night; you get to meet all new people and you get to branch out of your comfort zone.”
Dr. Jackson agreed, thrilled to see that some of her students had showed up for the games.
“[Bunco is] a great way to bring women together of all ages and just watch people meet one another,” Dr. Jackson said. “It’s a casual way for women to get to know each other, even though it’s brief.”
Attendee Laura Gerhardt, a member of her own Bunco group, said that her team forewent their regular monthly Bunco meeting in favor of tonight’s event.
“It’s so much fun and it’s for a great cause,” Gerhardt said. “Plus, you get prizes!”
Gerhardt didn’t have too much time to chat. Once that bell rang, she put her game face on.
“It’s time…to win,” she said before joining her table of teammates.