Nearly 500 people came out to “Experience the Spirit of Love” at the 18th annual Metroplex Health Systems Gold Star Gala on Thursday at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center.

The gala aimed to raise $120,000 to benefit the Behavioral Health Center and the Cardiology Department at Metroplex Hospital in Killeen. It was the largest event the hospital’s foundation has hosted and is expected to exceed last year’s fundraising by $5,000.

“When Metroplex does well, we return those resources to the community and employees,” said Carlyle Walton, president and CEO of the health system. Each day, he said, Metroplex contributes between $40,000 and $42,000 worth of noncompensated care to the community.

“We are truly a nonprofit organization,” he said. “We do it because it is a part of our mission of extending the healing ministry of Christ.”

Dr. Umad Ahmad, director of cardiology and emcee for the evening, said his department plans to use the funds to purchase a new echo cardiogram machine, which will not only allow faster, better care for patients, but also benefit the greater community.

He said he is hoping by next summer to be able to use the machine to offer screenings for young athletes in the area.

For patients, it will improve the hospital’s new 24-hour heart attack program.

“I want to thank the board and foundation for the opportunity to service the community,” he said.

Nancy Hennigan chaired the gala for the fifth time and said she was pleased with such an amazing turnout.

“They give so much to the community as far as free medical care and good medical care,” she said.

Aside from a concert by the band Air Supply, guests were able to participate in silent and live auctions.

“Metroplex is a great benefit to the community in all kinds of ways — providing medical services and jobs,” said Craig Carlson, a Killeen resident who has supported the event for many years.

Any fundraising left over from the cardiology purchase is slated to go to hiring more staff and renovating the Behavioral Health Department.

“We feel our work is validated by the community,” said Dr. Vijay Jampala, child and adolescent psychologist in the department, when describing the support of so many in Central Texas. “The support we get goes to the families and children. This service is very needed with the stresses going on in the community, with deployments and family tension.”

Contact Rose L. Thayer at or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.

Rose L. Thayer is the military editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. She joined the paper in February 2011 as a health and military reporter. View her complete profile Here.

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