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Black & White Gala Benefits Bayhealth Medical Center in Kent County, Delaware

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The Black & White Gala, an oasis of warmth and hospitality, was just what the doctor ordered to cure a case of the January blues in Kent County.

“Black and white seems appropriate in winter, when everything outdoors looks either black or white,” said Susan Green, spokeswoman for the Dover-based Bayhealth Foundation.

This year, white was the prevailing color outdoors, with a snowstorm sweeping in the morning of the Jan. 21 event. But that did not deter a flurry of party-minded supporters who trekked to Dover Downs Hotel & Casino for the foundation’s sixth annual gala, a joint venture of the Auxiliary of Milford Memorial Hospital and the Junior Board of Kent General Hospital, both part of the Bayhealth system. Attendance set a record with 312 revelers braving the cold to support the cause. “I came up from the beach a night early just to make certain I could get here,” said Lisa Grossman, president of the Kent board.

Indoors, black was the prevailing color in fashion. Goodman teamed a shimmering top of icy blue and silver with a long, black skirt. Co-hostess Suzanne Donovan, Ph.D., president of the Milford auxiliary, donned a floor-length, sleeveless black crepe frock with a white appliqué at the empire waist. Pamela Van Gorp of Camden briefly considered white, “but most white dresses look too wedding-ish.” It simply had to be black. So she settled on a sizzling gown from BCBG with a low-neckline and a form-hugging silhouette. For just the right touch of bling, she added a sparkling necklace in a sunburst pattern. “I’ve been looking forward to this evening because it is always so much fun,” she said.
“I love slapping on the war paint, kissing the kids and going off to the party.”

On this evening, Pamela finished dressing a few minutes before her husband, John Van Gorp, senior vice president at Bayhealth. “When he came downstairs in his tuxedo, I said, ‘Wow! You are looking very dapper!’” she said. Quite true. There is something unequivocally fetching about a guy in a tux. Add cummerbund and stir. Instant James Bond.

William Johnston, president of Wesley College, took the theme a step further, wearing a black-and-white plaid bow tie with his tux. Truth to tell, he added it to his tie collection 15 years ago. Like black and white, bow ties never go out of style. His lovely and personable wife, the watercolorist Susan Johnston, wore a flowing black gown. “Last year, I wore purple,” she said. “I won’t make that mistake again.”

Melanie McKennett didn’t have to choose colors—or even her frock. Her husband, Robert, spied the ideal dress, a sophisticated column of black with a white, off-the-shoulder bodice, and ordered it from a New York boutique knowing it would look smashing on Melanie’s tall, slender form. (He was right!) Both McKennetts are nurse-anesthetists from Dover. Said Robert, who sported a black-and-white cummerbund, “she fits into just about anything. I couldn’t go wrong.”

Elyse Baney-Barton and Barbara McCleary, both of Wyoming, were repeat guests at the event. Their fashion statements: a black, knee-length sleeveless cocktail sheath with a square neckline and a short, flirty dress sporting a princess-like layer of black lace over a pale pink base.

The Kent board will donate its portion of the proceeds toward the new cancer center currently being completed in Dover. The Milford auxiliary will help to buy ventilators for the respiratory therapy department.

Guests had the option of a chicken and crab cake combo, a Delaware classic, or vegetable Wellington. Not to worry about calories. Guests danced themselves into puddles to the music of The Funsters, a high-energy local band making a return appearance at the event. 

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