For most people, the night before New Year's Eve is reserved for storing up reserves for the late night to follow. Not for the Minnesotans at the Hats and Mittens Ball. For the 16th year, they celebrated Dec. 30, also known as the final full evening of 2011, with a fundraiser.

It all started with an idea from Rebecca Jorgenson Sundquist.

"I was single at the time, and many of my girlfriends were at loose ends, not living the Norman Rockwell Christmas situation," she said. "So we thought if we could band together and do something good for the community, we would create our own community."

In their first year, they collected 4,000 hats and mittens. They're now up to 40,000, as witnessed by the overflowing bags at the entrance to the Lafayette Club in Wayzata.

Each year, they partner with various local organizations that share their kids-centric mission. So they shared the nonprofit spotlight with Children's Grief Connection, an organization started by funeral directors that runs camps for kids dealing with loss.

"Our mission is to help in healing to Minnesota's children; because of how they grieve, they ride a roller coaster," executive director Coral Popowitz said. "We provide an opportunity for them to meet other kids."

Aided by plenty of hats and mittens and funds raised, they plan to organize their first winter camp.

That's offering comfort -- on the outside and inside.

Sara Glassman • 612-673-7177