The 12th annual banquet of the Raccoon River Valley Trail Association was held on Saturday, Feb. 23, and despite poor weather and horrendous travel conditions, the event was a resounding success. The banquet is the association’s one fundraising event of the year, and the estimated preliminary total of funds generated for 2019 approaches $22,000.


“This is a regional celebration and it is exciting that the event brings together supporters from across the state,” said Dallas County Conservation Board Director Mike Wallace. “Thank you to the trail association board and banquet committee for putting on a wonderful event.”


The banquet, held at the West Des Moines Marriott, included a social hour, sit-down meal and both live and silent auctions. Kevin Cooney, longtime trail supporter and retired KCCI anchor, was the Master of Ceremony. Mike Wallace was filling in as auctioneer for the evening. Auction highlights this season included a weekend package from the Hotel Pattee, including a Chef’s Table Dining Experience for 10 people, numerous bike related items and fantastic donations from local businesses and artisans. The night closed with the traditional and ever popular Tyson Fresh Meats pork loin bidding. Once again this year the slabs of meat were sold for top dollar.


Jeff Johnson, President and CEO of the Iowa State University Alumni Association, was the keynote speaker. He gave an uplifting presentation weaving personal narratives throughout. Johnson closed by reciting the moving tale of young Hattie May Wiatt who set out to raise money to help build a bigger church in Pennsylvania in the 1800s. Hattie passed away as a child, but the $0.57 she’d saved was the seed money that inspired much giving and paved the way for the opening of Temple University. Johnson’s message was clear, everyone can have an impact and make a difference.


With more than 30 years of higher education experience, Johnson oversees all Alumni Association programs, is secretary to the Stanton Memorial Carillon Foundation, publisher of all Alumni Association publications, an ex-officio member and officer to the Alumni Association Board of Directors, a member of the President’s Cabinet and the Alumni Association’s liaison to the university and its affiliate organizations. In 2015, he became the first Lora and Russ Talbot Endowed President and CEO.


The RRVTA supports the advertising, website, social media and other promotion of the 89-mile paved trail that connects communities throughout central Iowa. The trail system is used by hundreds of thousands of people per year coming from all over Iowa, across the nation and beyond.