Like many people, Barb Hansen vividly remembers the events of September 11, 2001. As a member of the Sunridge Foundation, the Gala committee on which she served was completing nearly a year of preparations for their Arabian Night themed event in November when terrorists linked to the Islamic extremist group, al Qaeda, attacked the United States.

After the September 11 tragedy, the board decided to change the theme to Red, White, and Blue – six weeks before the Gala was to take place.

At the time, the Gala was the premiere event in Fountain Hills. Members paid $250 per couple to attend a festive event at the newly constructed Community Center. Barb said half the fun was deciding on a theme, then transforming the space to create something magical.

“We were America strong,” Barb remembers. “We were not going to be defeated. We proved that we could do in six weeks what typically took a year to pull off. We worked around the clock, but we did it.”

Barb said it was one of the most well attended Galas in Sunridge history. According to articles in the Fountain Hills Times, nearly 250 people attended the Red, White & Blue Gala and raised more than $140,000 through silent and live auctions as well as donations.

“I think it was the best Gala of all,” she said. “That tragic event forced us to change our theme and Fountain Hills showed its best.”

Photo: Auctioneer Bob Frost, right, and emcee Perry Damone made the evening’s live auction fun and lively. (photo courtesy of the Fountain Hills Times)