Parade of Hearts culminates with gala auction to benefit charity


KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) — The months-long Subway Hearts Parade ended Friday night with a gala auction of hearts to benefit charity.

The project, however, has always been more than just fundraising. It was the brainchild of eight local business leaders who saw how difficult 2020 and 2021 had been, filled with isolation and division.

“We got together and said, ‘What can we do to try to unite the region?’ And we said, “How about a public art experience? explained Parade of Hearts Board Member David Steffano.

The hearts displayed on the Midland Theater stage for the live auction were the top 12 chosen by a jury from a total of 156 across 31 metro cities.

“It was fantastic,” North Kansas City Mayor Bryant DeLong said. “Every time we come together as a region and do something like this, it’s exciting. And all of the communities were excited to come out and see the hearts, so it brought a lot of people into the city and places they don’t normally go to see those hearts.

“This constitutes the heart. That was the whole concept. We are all in the same boat. We are all one community. Diverse, different, and we all came together to unite,” Steffano said.

A total of 700 designs were submitted. A jury narrowed them down to 154. Two more were added later: one with a design to celebrate the KU national basketball title and another with a design supporting the Ukrainian people after the Russian invasion.

The performers range in age from 8 to 71, representing 70 different ZIP codes in the Kansas City area. Some people have made it their goal to visit them all.

Anthony High has selected two of his creations. The heart he painted with a jazz placed them at the Ruby Jeans Juicery at 30th and Troost. He visited regularly for touch-ups.

“One day I noticed we had a family that came from across Overland Park and another family that came from north of the river,” High remarked. “So I thought it was fair, he achieved his goal.”

The silent auction, which ended Friday at noon, raised nearly half a million dollars. Corporate sponsorships have already raised $3.5 million. The total raised during the live auction has not yet been made available.

The funds will go to five different initiatives:

  • Pay a stipend to the artists who designed and decorated the hearts
  • Purchase of new machines to help treat heart problems in long-term COVID-19 patients at the University of Kansas Health System
  • Help the nonprofit Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) fund child care and early childhood education positions so area daycares can reopen
  • Provide grants to minority-owned businesses through local lending group AltCAP
  • Donations to the Visit KC Foundation to help places like restaurants and theaters recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic

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