Local hospital volunteers turned a suggestion into a successful fundraising event for the past 23 years.

Christmas in July began as an idea and nearly a quarter of a century later mushroomed into one of AdventHealth Ottawa Auxiliary’s biggest fundraisers. Through the years, it generated more than $200,000 to benefit the Auxiliary.

Officials announced this is the final Christmas in July. It is billed as the Grand Finale. The event will be Wednesday through Friday with seasonal items for sale in the hospital’s conference rooms. The hours are: Wednesday, 5-8 p.m.; Thursday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; and Friday, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

“We decided last year, it is time to do something different,” Ginny Bromert, organizer of Christmas in July and a member of the gift shop committee, said. “We could not do this without all of us together. We have a really strong core that helps every year. It is a big undertaking, but we have a pretty devoted group of volunteers that have helped every year. It works and we love doing it.”

Bromert and a couple of ladies attended an auxiliary meeting in Kansas City nearly 25 years ago when the idea was sprouted.

“The Pittsburg hospital told us they had a Christmas in July event,” Bromert said. “On the way home, we said ‘it would be fun if we could do it.’ Ester, who was always really progressive, said ‘we can.’ We did. It has been pretty successful.”

The Bromert family is synonymous with the event.

“Ginny Bromert started this and with the help of her children and grandchildren, it has been one of the most anticipated events the gift shop hosts,” Jody Lancaster, AdventHealth Ottawa director of volunteer services, said. “Of course, many other volunteers help, but Ginny’s family has put in lots of hours. Sadly, this is going to be the last year. Ginny’s grandchildren are growing up and not able to help and the volunteers have gotten older as well. I know that a few of Ginny’s grandchildren have taken time out from their internships and work to come back and help this year.”

Christmas in July started as a one-day affair. Bromert said the hospital administrator told them, “this is a lot of work for one day, why don’t you think about making it longer.”

“We expanded,” Bromert said. “After that, we took over the three conference rooms. When we added and it was successful, we were very happy. It is all new merchandise. It is Christmas and seasonal [items]. All kinds of gift things.”

Bromert added door prizes and food samples to go along with the shopping are staples of the event.

“We do all kinds of different activities,” Bromert said. “We always have door prizes and giveaways. We try to make it as fun for those that come to shop as we can.”

Bromert said there are items of interest for all ages, including clothing, jewelry, handbags, Willow Tree items, decorative items, housewares, seasonal decorations and soaps. Committee members began shopping for the final Christmas in July this past fall.

“It is always a guessing game when you are buyers,” Bromert said. “We have done a pretty good job over the years. We have a storeroom full of [items]. It takes us several days to set up. We are pricing things as we go along.”

This year, there will be some special items for sale. Bromert said the family of Edie Derousseau, who was a long-time volunteer and supporter of the hospital, donated two sets of china and her snow village collection to the sale.

“One is a Christmas set and the other one is a Jewell Tea,” Bromert said. “It is a collectible set of dishes called ‘Autumn Leaf.’ It will be a special thing [to sell these].”

Bromert said the fundraiser’s success comes from the dedication of the volunteers and the community.

“It has grown every year with the community and we are very thankful for the community support we have received,” she said. I wish I could list each one of the volunteers over the years who have given their time to make this event a success, including my three daughters and grandchildren. It is a great place to volunteer. It is a labor of love for everyone that works here.”