Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Handsome Hunks ‘cut loose’ for Ruth’s Place fundraiser


Handsome Hunks contestants kicked off their Sunday shoes during their group dance to “Footloose” Feb. 15, as they raised a total of $98,657.15 — which included a $10,000 donation — for Ruth’s Place.

Featuring a stand-up comedy routine and lip sync and dance performances, each contestant took their turn onstage as they attempted to impress both the public and the judges for the official 2024 Handsome Hunks title.

Many Hunks got creative with their bribery, as they gifted the judges everything from roses to cowgirl hats.

But there was one Hunk who claimed the official title with his quick-change performance from a doctor to a rocker: Darren Rape.

Second place went to Chris Hammar and son, Finn, with their multiple-song dance routine, while third place was awarded to Josh Winters, who walked out into the crowd during his song to pour a small sampling of wine into attendees’ glasses.

“What a night it was! We are so grateful for the support shown by our community,” Ruth’s Place Executive Director Kristin Billington told the Hood County News. “The Hunks worked hard learning the 'Footloose' dance, their individual performances, and spreading the word about Ruth's Place. These men truly care about making a difference in Hood County.”

Billington said the contestants not only supported Ruth’s Place, but they supported each other during the competition.

“That was a really cool evolution I'm glad I got to see,” she said. “They went from 10 strangers to working the crowd while their ‘competition’ was on stage, making sure the crowd stayed engaged and each Hunk felt supported.”

While Rape was crowned the official Handsome Hunk by the judges, there was one special Hunk who took home the People’s Choice Award, as he raised the most money individually for the fundraiser — and that Handsome Hunk is Gouda from Second Chance Farm.

Gouda is a 4-month-old Cane Corso puppy who allegedly had his nose bitten off by a larger dog. He was taken in by Sandi Walker, founder of Second Chance Farm, a nonprofit organization that serves as a special needs animal rescue and rehab.

“Second Chance Farm has been involved in the Handsome Hunks of Hood County previously,” Billington said. “I reached out to Sandi to ask if she would like to bring one of their dogs to walk the stage and auction a tour of the farm. Sandi agreed and Gouda made the Handsome Hunks step up their game! Second Chance Farm has a large social media following and Gouda is just so precious, he took the lead in the People's Choice competition in no time. Sandi believes in the work we do at Ruth's Place and really got their followers engaged in helping Gouda win for a great cause.”

Following behind Gouda for the People’s Choice Award in second place was Dr. Romeo Bachand with Hammar coming in third.

Handsome Hunks was created in 2010 to serve as a fundraiser for Ruth’s Place, a nonprofit organization that provides high quality health care and social services to uninsured Hood County residents.

“All of the proceeds go to Ruth's Place,” Billington said, in a previous interview with the HCN. “Any Hood County resident that does not have health insurance can come to Ruth's Place. All you have to do is fill out an application, show proof of residency — which is any piece of mail with your name and address on it proving that you live in Hood County — and then we need a copy of your driver's license. That's it. We do ask for donations from our patients. If they can donate for the services they receive, great. We don't put a number on it. If you can donate, please do. If not, we get it.”

Billington said in 2023, the number of new patients seen at Ruth’s Place increased by 128% from 2022. Additionally, there were 1,837 patient encounters in total — an 11% increase from 2022.

"In 2023 we spent an average of $4,917 per month on lab tests, imaging, pathology, etc. needed to treat our patients,” Billington said. “We have a lot going on, but this money is super important for us to continue what we do."

The Ruth’s Place Clinic is located at 1411 Crawford Ave., while the Ruth’s Place Community Outreach Center is in Oak Trail Shores at 2723 Maplewood St.

“I want to thank every person involved in making this event happen,” Billington added. “We could not have pulled this off without their expertise and experience!”

For more information about Ruth’s Place, visit ruthsplace.wixsite.com/ruthsplace online.