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Singer Michaela O’Malley performed vocals from the Katy Perry song “Firework” and later mingled with the audience during intermission of the Free Clinic’s Variety Show.1 / 2
:Nate Plummer, a ventriloquist from Eau Claire, was a big hit at last year’s first-ever Free Clinic Variety Show and Marketplace Charity Event. Todd Schultz from River Falls State Bank was picked from the audience as a “guest participant.” Plummer returns for this year’s show. (Rivertowns file photos)2 / 2

RIVER FALLS--They came by the hundreds last year to be entertained, fed, play games and shop during the first annual Variety Show and Marketplace Charity Event to benefit the Free Clinic Pierce and St. Croix Counties.

The turnout of 500-plus people contributed $30,000 to a nonprofit organization, the Free Clinic, that’s treated some 13,500 needy patients since opening once a week in spring 2007 at Unit 2 of the River Falls Medical Clinic, 1687 E. Division St.

The Free Clinic has a yearly operating budget of just under $300,000. Retired nurse and clinic cofounder Mary Conroy-Johnson is chairwoman of the board of directors.

Much of the Free Clinic’s budget goes for costly medications to treat those with chronic conditions ranging from high blood pressure and cholesterol to diabetes, heart disease and mild depression.

Last year, nearly 8,000 medications at a retail value of $654,910 were dispensed. The Free Clinic, though the Prescription Assistance Program, gets huge discounts to make such purchases possible.

Dollars donated to the Free Clinic go a long way--just $25 provides 10 prescription medications to its patients; $60 covers the care for one patient; and $100 the yearly cost of giving a monthly prescription to three patients.

The Free Clinic also deals with many acute illnesses--strep, urinary tract, sinus and ear infections.

In this area, the Free Clinic can tap into an army of 160-180 volunteers--many who’ve kept giving of their time and skills since day one.

Volunteers include doctors, nurses, pharmacists, office staff, patient intake coordinators, greeters, administrators and more.

Even with this loyal volunteering corps, the Free Clinic can’t survive without donations.

Julie Gore, Free Clinic fund development coordinator, says the Variety Show and Marketplace Charity Event has become the “signature fundraiser.”

She said what people liked about it last year was the “fun, festive atmosphere” that catered to children and families.

Unlike for last year’s event, the River Falls High School auditorium isn’t available.

For more please read the Nov. 6 print version of the Herald.