Around and about: Foundation’s Reflection Ball gives hand to Ted E. Bear Hollow

Midland Community Foundation Reflection Ball committee members are, from left, Karla Rupiper, Diane Knicky, Tonee Gay, Ken Summerfield, Patricia Iske, Jackie Boryca, Kris Zey, Carrie Krist, Kyle Black, Tami Field, Jan Davis, Bindy Frederick, Mary Gawecki and Donna Wilcox.

“You dream about it, but actually getting it is a surprise,” said Nancy Hemesath, Ted E. Bear Hollow executive director.

“It” in this case will be a significant donation from the $115,000 raised at the Midlands Community Foundation’s 31st annual Reflection Ball.

The nonprofit Ted E. Bear Hollow will use the money in its mission to provide a safe and loving environment for grieving children and their families.

The ball, at the Embassy Suites La Vista on Jan. 5, also honored a Cass County family’s longstanding commitment to building a strong community through support and service to others.

Dave and Lori Pankonin of Louisville, Neb., recipients of the Reflection Award, have continued the legacy of two Louisville businesses, Pankonin’s Inc. and Home State Bank, which span five generations and a combined 226 years of continuous service to Cass and Sarpy Counties.

The couple have been involved with numerous community organizations, including First United Methodist Church in Louisville. Lori Pankonin chairs the church’s Staff Parish Relations Committee and the church food stand at the Cass County Fair, and serves on the preschool board.

Dave Pankonin has been the church’s Finance Committee chairman for more than 20 years and has been the lay leader for the congregation. He also is a member of the Louisville Care Center advisory board, the Cass County Historical Society Foundation board and the Cass County Nebraska Economic Development Council. He was a state senator from 2006 to 2011.

“They are humble, unassuming and the most charitable couple,” said Tonee Gay, Midlands Community Foundation executive director. “They do it out of the goodness of their hearts. It’s who they are.”

Heading the ball were honorary chairmen John and Gail DeBoer, chairman Kyle Black and co-chairwoman Jill Govier.

* * *

Royal introductions and farewells were on the agenda at the Ak-Sar-Ben Women’s Ball Committee kickoff luncheon Jan. 3 at the Happy Hollow Club.

Six new members were introduced and six retiring members of the committee were thanked for their service.

Terry Kroeger, chairman of the Coronation Ball Committee, announced the members of his committee: Steve Martin, Coronation Ball Committee adviser; Kelly Thedinger, past chairwoman and adviser to the Women’s Ball Committee; and Ann Tjaden, 2013 Women’s Ball Committee chairwoman.

Kroeger also announced that Jane E. Miller, CEO and executive vice president of Gallup, will serve as chairwoman of the Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben Foundation. Miller will be the first woman to lead the organization.

The Coronation Ball Committee and the Women’s Ball Committee raised more than $700,000 for the Ak-Sar-Ben Scholarship Program and the 250 Heartland Scholars who will attend universities and colleges in the 2012-13 school year.

A legendary figure in the land of Quivera, coronation prime minister Jeffrey Taxman, announced the six new members of the Women’s Ball Committee. Jen Bettger, Kate Grabill, Kimberly Hord, Jeanie Jones, Suzanne Kotula and Buffy Ricceri each received a gold crown pin and a red rose.

This wasn’t the first crown pin for Jones. The former Jeanie Cutler, she was Ak-Sar-Ben queen in 1994.

And Jones isn’t the only committee member with a royal background. Kelli Fitzgerald Draper, a third-year member was queen in 1988. Karen Burkley, a second-year member, also has a royal connection in her family. Her husband’s great-aunt, Eleanor Burkley McCarthy, was crowned queen of Ak-Sar-Ben in 1923.

Honored for their service were retiring committee members Kyle Robino, chairwoman of the 2011 Women’s Ball Committee, Viv Ewing, Julie Kenney, Kathy Neary, Heidi Schneiderman and Julie Taylor.

Chocolatier Melissa Stevens from the Cordial Cherry created crown-shaped chocolates for guests at the luncheon.

While many crowns were in evidence, keys will play a role in the 2013 pageant.

“I have chosen the key to be a representation of the 117th coronation,” Tjaden said. “This little word is not one to be disrespected since it signifies greatness, supremacy and importance, and symbolizes all the goodness that can be unlocked and revealed in the Kingdom of Quivira.”

The 2013 Coronation and Scholarship Ball will be held Oct.19 at the CenturyLink Center Omaha.

Tjaden announced the following committee assignments:

Kelli Draper, princess chairwoman; Kathy Langdon, Court of Honor chairwoman, royal court luncheon chairwoman and Regale co-chairwoman; Susan McGillick, heartland princess chairwoman, Regale co-chairwoman and Ak-Sar-Ben Friends liaison; Christine Stevens, heartland escort chairwoman and treasurer; Stacy Wilson, escort chairwoman.

Karen Burkley, production chairwoman; Stacey Falk, royal court welcome chairwoman, yearbooks chairwoman and Regale assistant; Victoria Halgren, royal court brunch chairwoman, gifts/courtesy/tribute cards and Regale assistant; Cydney Koukol, scholarship chairwoman, Royal Court supper chairwoman and royal court welcome assistant; Kathleen Pallesen, page chairwoman; Kim Simon, site chairwoman and social chairwoman.

Jen Bettger, photography/historian chairwoman, royal court supper assistant and page luncheon assistant; Kate Grabill, page luncheon chairwoman, production assistant/scenario and social media; Kimberly Hord, publicity chairwoman, program chairwoman and scholarship assistant; Jeanie Jones, reservations chairwoman, files and lists, and royal court brunch assistant; Suzanne Kotula, invitations chairwoman, community support/endowment chairwoman and production assistant/inventory; Buffy Ricceri, standard bearer chairwoman, page assistant.

On the Calendar

Jan. 26: Duchesne Academy Conge, 5 p.m. silent auction and cocktails, 7 p.m. dinner and live auction, Embassy Suites La Vista. Tickets: $125. Information: Meghan at 402-558-3800, ext. 1073.

Jan. 31: Girls Inc. Girls Nite Out, 5:30 p.m. shopping and cocktails, 6:30 p.m. buffet dinner and program, Mutual of Omaha Dome. Tickets: $75. Information: 402-457-4676 or

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