Parade of Hearts culminates with gala auction to benefit charity

Published: Jun. 17, 2022 at 9:39 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - The metro’s months-long Parade of Hearts culminated Friday night with a gala auction of the hearts to benefits charity.

The project, however, was always about more than raising money. It was the brainchild of eight local business leaders who saw how difficult 2020 and 2021 had been, filled with isolation and divisiveness.

“We came together and said, ‘What can we do to try to unite the region?’ And we said, ‘What about a public art experience?’” explained David Steffano, a member of the Parade of Hearts Board.

The hearts displayed across the stage at the Midland Theater for the live auction were the top 12 picked by a jury out of the 156 total that were spread through 31 cities in the metro.

“It’s been fantastic,” said North Kansas City Mayor Bryant DeLong. “Anytime we come together as a region and do anything like this, it’s exciting. And all the communities have been excited to get out and see the hearts, so it’s brought a lot of people in the town and in places where they don’t normally go to see these hearts.”

“That makes up the heartland. That was the whole concept. We’re all in this together. We’re all one community. Diverse, different, and we all came together to unite,” said Steffano.

A total of 700 designs were submitted. A jury whittled them down to 154. Two more were later added: one with a design to celebrate KU basketball’s national title and another with a design supporting the people of Ukraine after the Russian invasion.

The artists range in age from 8 to 71 years old, representing 70 different ZIP codes around the Kansas City region. Some people made it a goal to visit all of them.

Anthony High has two of his designs selected. The heart he painted with a jazz them was placed at Ruby Jeans Juicery at 30th and Troost. He visited routinely for touch ups.

“One day, I noticed we had one family that had come all the way from the other side of Overland Park and another family came from north of the river,” High remarked. “So, I thought it just, it accomplished its goal.”

The silent auction that ended at noon on Friday raised nearly half a million dollars. Corporate sponsorships already raised $3.5 million. The total raised at the live auction hasn’t been made available yet.

The funds will go to five different initiatives:

  • Paying a stipend to the artists who designed and decorated the hearts
  • Buying new machinery to help treat cardiac issues in long-term COVID-19 patients at The University of Kansas Health System
  • Helping the nonprofit Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) fund daycare and early childhood education positions so childcare centers in the area can reopen
  • Making grants to minority-owned businesses through the local lending group AltCAP
  • Donations to the Visit KC Foundation to help spots like restaurants and theaters recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic