The 20th Annual Reverse Raffle fundraiser set another record for Columbus’ Volunteers in Medicine clinic.

Friday night’s sold-out Platinum Celebration, which 500 people attended, netted $195,000 at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center. Last year’s mark and the previous record was $182,000.

The fundraiser accounts for about 35 percent of annual budget for the clinic on Marr Road, which serves about 600 patients with no health insurance. Just over half of the patients work full time, but make insufficient money to afford insurance. About 50 volunteer physicians, dentists, nurses, pharmacists and mental professionals provide care, along with a small, paid staff.

Clinic medical director Dr. David Rau, who has seen years of generosity at the facility that his physician father Dr. Charles Rau helped birth, hardly seemed surprised at hearing the total as he stood in the back of the room.

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“That (money) really allows you to do what everybody is trying and hoping to see done: provide quality health care for everybody,” David Rau said.

The community’s support for the clinic continues to remain strong “because they understand that this is about real people,” he said.

Volunteers in Medicine is entirely supported by donations through the Columbus Regional Heath Foundation and operates from a budget of $500,000 annually, according to foundation staff. No tax dollars support the clinic.

Julie Abedian, the foundation’s president, told the crowd that “many people make both the clinic and this event very special.”

Nurse practitioner Wanda Hadley, among the clinic’s founders, was one of those people, she said. With the Hadley family looking on, clinic executive director Mary Ferdon posthumously saluted Hadley, who died in June at age 68, as someone who became a patient favorite.

“She was a critical part of why Volunteers in Medicine has become so successful over these 20 years,” Ferdon said. “She truly embodied the mission of the clinic. She was totally committed to caring for others.”

Ferdon mentioned that one person thought so highly of Hadley that the patient quipped, “Wanda saved my life. I will never forget her.”

During the reverse raffle portion of the evening, ticket holders are eliminated one by one from winning the $10,000 prize. The last ticket holder standing is the winner, and Friday that was Cindy Smith, who looked shocked when the reality hit her.

“I’ve never won anything except a bottle of alcohol at a dance,” Smith said just after the announcement sank in.

She bought one ticket a couple weeks ago, and it arrived in the mail Friday.

With a son getting married in Ohio next year, she and husband Joe said a portion of the winnings will be included in his wedding gift.

By the numbers

51: Percentage of Volunteers In Medicine patients working full time

500: Number of people attending Friday’s Reverse Raffle

600: Estimated number of Volunteers In Medicine patients

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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5672.