The Board of Visitors may seem like a strange name for a group of women whose main goal is helping women, children, and the elderly meet their health care needs, but if you delve into their history a bit, it will all make sense.
The Board of Visitors has been in service since 1908, making it the oldest women’s charity organization in Arizona.
Over a century ago, 16 women volunteered at St. Luke’s Home, a hospital for those with tuberculosis. From there, the organization grew with the purpose of helping those in need by visiting patients, bringing baked goods and writing letters. With the sale of St. Luke’s in 1996, the Board of Visitors carried on as a nonprofit organization.
More than $20 million has been granted to nonprofits and charities in the Phoenix community from Board of Visitors fundraising events. This includes the Annual Charity Ball, where Flower Girls (chosen beforehand) are announced. This year, 12 of the 58 girls chosen are from Arcadia. The Flower Girls were presented at the 65th Annual Fashion Show Luncheon held in early December at the Camelback Inn.
“The Board of Visitors selects Flower Girls from families who support the Board of Visitors and the community. I was surprised with the invitation to be a Flower Girl, but I was also honored and gladly accepted,” said Patsy Langmade, a senior at Xavier and a member of the Biltmore group.
“It is a big honor to be a Flower Girl and I was thrilled to be asked. My sister was a Flower Girl in 2014 and I watched how much fun she had throughout the year and how much it meant to my parents…my mom was also a Flower Girl in 1987 and my dad was her escort, which is crazy to me,” Abby Jones said.
This year, Langmade and Jones participated in the fashion show alongside professional models, walking down the runway in the latest trends from Dillard’s.
“It was incredibly fun to practice alongside my friends and walk down the runway in my sparkly dress during the luncheon. The fashion show felt like nothing I’ve ever done before. Everyone was anxious that morning, but once we got on the runway it was beyond exciting,” Langmade said.
“Once we went through it a few times, it got a lot easier and I was a lot less nervous because I realized I was surrounded by my friends and our families were out in the audience cheering us on,” Jones said.
This year’s Chairman of the Board, Betsy Haenel, said that the tradition of the Board of Visitors Flower Girls began in the 1940s. To raise additional money for St. Luke’s Hospital, members asked their daughters and friends to sell flowers to the guests at the Annual Charity Ball.
“In the 1950s, a formal Flower Girl presentation was established with the girls wearing long white dresses and being presented by their fathers at the Annual Charity Ball,” Haenel said.
“I was able to watch my dad present my sister in 2014. In some ways, that will make it that much more special as I am not sure what to expect during the ball. I am so excited to have my entire family there just for me and to spend some meaningful time with my dad. I think it will be a great way to celebrate the end of my senior year,” Jones said.
The Annual Charity Ball takes place in April. Congratulations to all of this year’s Flower Girls!