Those who soon step into the Fort Smith Convention Center will be walking into a winter wonderland for a "most worthy" cause, according to one official.

Members of the Mercy Health Foundation Fort Smith will host their 50th annual Charity Ball fundraiser beginning at 6 p.m. Friday at the convention center, 55 S. Seventh St., and the decorations will include seasonally themed sights as well as numerous visual displays that will celebrate multiple "special" anniversaries, said Hollye Dickinson, senior annual giving officer for Mercy Health Foundation Fort Smith.

"This really is being held to celebrate and honor three different anniversaries," she said of the black-tie optional event, which is being billed as "the White Christmas Charity Ball" and will feature performances by Brett Young and Emerald City Band, food, a live auction and more. "We, of course, are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Charity Ball, and we are celebrating our Fort Smith Growing Strong program — we're coming up on 165 years of Mercy being in Fort Smith.

"Plus, there's also the Bicentennial Commemoration of Fort Smith," Dickinson added. "We will be celebrating all three things that evening."

Young is set to perform country and more at 8:30 p.m., while Emerald City Band will play multiple genres for the fundraiser's Defrost After Party portion at 9:30 p.m., she said.

"This also will be the first time Emerald City Band has been in Fort Smith, and I'm personally as excited to see them as the others," Dickinson said. "Emerald City Band is the No. 1 party band in the country, and we are so excited to have Emerald City Band bring back the event's dinner-dance portion of the night."

Patrick Pendleton, executive director for the Mercy Health Foundation Fort Smith, agreed.

"This is a fantastic event, and the sheer fact of being around for 50 years, well, you don't have a lot of other events with that kind of staying power," he said. "There's excitement in the evening.

"And one of the things people are understanding about Mercy is, we are more than just a collection of hospitals and clinics," Pendleton added. "A lot of people see Mercy in the community in a broader way in recent years — it's through our partnering with others in the community. It's through public art, festivals and the Hope Campus is a fantastic example of partnering with others to meet needs."

Savvy Shields, Miss America 2017, will act as emcee for the Charity Ball, which is expected to draw 1,250 attendees, Dickinson said. This amount of guests will set an attendance record for the fundraiser, she said.

"Gov. Asa Hutchinson and First Lady Susan will be there, and we're featuring some really great items for the auction this year," Dickinson said. "To pay tribute to Ireland and our Irish history — the first House of Mercy was in Dublin, Ireland — we are doing a golf trip.

"And Newton's Jewelers and Mays Jewelers will do shopping sprees for us, and there also will be a beach and mountain resort trip in the auction," she added.

A three-day trip to the Austin City Limits Music Festival, an autographed guitar by Brett Young and fellow singer-musician Carly Pearce and framed, original artwork also will be on the auction table, Dickinson said.

"The Mercy gala is the premier event in Fort Smith, and to some degrees, it sells itself," said George Moschner, a board member of Mercy Heath Foundation Fort Smith. "The gala comes at a great time, it supports a worthy cause, people have a blast and the entertainment is always impeccable. They bring in entertainment you normally wouldn't see except in big markets like New York and Los Angeles."

A VIP, invite-only performance by Pearce will take place prior to the event, Dickinson said. Doors will open for the public at 6 p.m., with those attending being treated to a champagne welcome and a formal, three-course meal catered by River City Bistro, she said.

Those present during the Charity Ball also can learn more about Mercy's Shepherd's Light program, which is a navigational oncology program to help patients and their families, Pendleton said. 

"It's definitely a great benefit to the patient and the providers," he said. "It serves as the go-between that can coordinate care, gather information and really help guide the patient and their families through the process of care."

According to Moschner, the Charity Ball's surprises are a highlight.

"Last year, they had an artist who painted upside down," he said. "When they turned the painting up, it was a painting of Christ. The surprises they throw at people are always great."

This year, Charity Ball organizers are hoping to raise $500,000, Dickinson said. 

"We're already at about $350,000 going into this event, with Brett and Carly certainly drawing a crowd," she said. "We love that we will have 1,250 people in that room who will hear what great things Mercy is doing in the greater Fort Smith area. That is why we do these events. People who will be in that room have dealt with a lot of illness, and now they will be able to celebrate life and be with family and friends."