The 16th annual Altru Gala has been moved online in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The gala, held in previous years at the Alerus Center, will focus around a week-long online auction with videos becoming available throughout the week. Funds raised will benefit Altru Health System’s Clinical Research department.

“There's just never been a time where it's been more important to be focused on,” said Kristi Hall-Jiran, chief philanthropy and partnership officer at Altru Health Foundation. Hall-Jiran added, adding that the choice of the Clinical Research department, made before the pandemic swept across the nation, was “meant to be.”

The funds will be used to bolster the department’s efforts to increase patient access to new medications and innovative treatments. Altru was in the first wave of hospitals in the county to offer convalescent plasma therapy, an experimental treatment for patients with serious or immediately life-threatening COVID-19. The hospital continues to offer that treatment.

Funds also will be used to set up a grant program within the Clinical Research department to offer other hospital departments, including nursing, the chance to become involved in clinical trials or to study ways to improve quality and safety.

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The online auction will go live on Monday, Sept. 21, at 10 a.m. and will run through Friday until 7 p.m., but will reopen an hour later for a final 24-hour period, when the premier items will be auctioned off. Participants will receive bid notifications through text or email.

There are two tiers of tickets this year. A $25 ticket gains access to the auction, as well as the digital video content. A $125 ticket includes that access as well and adds a $50 gift card for participating local restaurants, a $15 gift card for Happy Harry’s Bottle Shops and a chance to enter a drawing for a $1,000 gift card to Hugo’s Family Marketplace. Ticket information is available at Altru.org/gala.

That digital content will feature speakers from the Clinical Research department highlighting their work. Moving to an online platform means Altru Health Foundation can communicate directly with ticket holders and supporters through text messages and social media.

Event organizers are expecting some drop off in ticket sales this year because of the economic impact of the pandemic. More than 150 tickets have been sold, but gala organizers expect that number will increase throughout the week.

“We hope to see some really good participation with social media, the text messaging and the videos coming out as well,” said Nolan Higdem, a philanthropy specialist at Altru Health Foundation.

Last year’s gala broke records in terms of attendance and money raised. More than 780 people attended the event, which raised $421,556 for Altru’s Cardiology Department.