“It’s very gratifying to see Westside prospering and expanding. Westside is my sixth child,” Westside Family Healthcare founder Salle McDaniel shared after the group’s 20th anniversary gala at the Chase Center—its first large fundraising event.
“West Side Story” was a natural choice of themes, said executive director Lolita Lopez, explaining how many, many generous people, headed by deputy director Sarah Noonan and the party pros at Planning Factory, made the event look as if it had run continuously for the past two decades.
A 1958 black-and-white police car and actors portraying the musical’s Lt. Shrank and Officer Krupke greeted guests on the sidewalk. Inside, Governors’ Hall was packed wall to wall with auction items, drinks, tasty morsels such as white truffle risotto and a two-story steel fire escape, custom built for the evening, where local vocalists Kara DeYoe as Maria and Rick Fountas as Tony sang, “Tonight, tonight won’t be just any night.” Indeed, it was an extraordinary evening.
Donna Goodman, chief financial officer for Westside, enjoyed an OMG moment at first sight of the room and stage. Asked if the group’s money was well spent, she could exclaim only, “Yes, oh, yes.”
On stage, in front of a painted fire escape backdrop, co-chairs Robert Laskowski and Josh Martin and their Sharks- and Jets-dressed “best girls,” Kathy Laskowski and Cynthia Primo Martin, started the night’s program by introducing U.S. Senator Tom Carper, who reminded the crowd that $15 billion has been allocated for community healthcare organizations that provide medical assistance to the 47 million Americans with little or no health insurance.
Is the senator a fan of musical theater? Carper says he likes almost all music. He told us of his days promoting concerts while at Ohio State, the Peter Paul and Mary and Harry Chapin concerts he helped bring to The Grand, and, more recently booking The Fray and The Mod Squad to the Democratic National Convention. Carper rocks. As do The Funsters, who kept the night fun and got everyone dancing, which is good for your health, north, south, east or West.
Page 2: Gourmet Gala Goes Glam
A light projecting the Gourmet Gala logo, a tented walkway, and a friendly hawk mascot made finding the entrance to the DelTech Terry Campus 2008 annual scholarship fundraiser as easy as driving to Dover on superfast SR1. Once inside, you didn’t need a hawk’s eye to see that the large main room and tables had been immaculately turned out in crisp, classic black and white linens and centerpieces with a single floating gerbera daisy. The equally well-dressed crowd added to the high style.
DelTech’s Jennifer Donovan introduced me to campus director Daniel Simpson, who greeted each and every guest near the oversized, ice-sculpted flower vase. Also meeting and greeting were his assistant, Susan Looney, event coordinator Jan Clapp and Howell Wallace of the development council. Another advisor for the event was Trish Rodriguez, who organizes the Starry, Starry Night benefit for the Stanton campus. Trish was chatting with former Dover mayor James Hutchinson, who was running for the state senate. He joined other pols such as State Representative Donna Stone, former governor David Buckson, and Dover Mayor Carleton Carey with his wife, Blanch.
A capacity crowd surpassed last year’s $200,000 for scholarships. Underwriters with Bayhealth Medical Center, George and Marilyn Chabbott, explained how the money raised made it possible for many first-time and returning students (average age 28, many with children) to attend DelTech. Offering on-campus child care was vital to the schools’ and students’ continued success.
A print of Delaware-bred artist Mark Smith’s “Olympic Dragon” painting, done for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, drew quite a crowd in the silent auction room. First item of the live auction: a photo of Legislative Hall signed by all of the living Delaware congressmen, including Joe Biden, natch. An at-home dinner for eight, prepared by DelTech’s Ed Hennessy, chair of the culinary arts department and sometime chainsaw-wielding ice carver, went for $1,700—twice.
On our way out we sampled a treat from head pastry instructor Cindy Hazewski’s irresistible dessert display. Thinking we’d found the sweetest spot, we then spotted a nearly 6-foot-tall (in Prada heels) confection in a sassy Ted Baker dress of silk in gunmetal gray with a high-collared TB jacket in black, Dover native Kristen Ashburn. Readers know she has a book coming out in January. “I Am Because We Are” shows Kristen’s photos of Malawi. The foreword is written by none other than the big M: Madonna. Gabby has been waiting to drop Her Majesty’s name in the column. Done.
Page 3: Prom Queens Just Wanna Have Fun
Past the Wilmington train station, on the “other” side of the tracks at the OperaDelaware Studios, the entire City Theater Company’s cast and crew threw its annual benefit and show. Set in the fictitious Thomas Shade Charter School for the Creatively Impaired, known as “Home of the Black Fairy,” Prom Night, as the event was called, was truly unlike any other event in town. The benefit was the show (directed by Michael Gray) and the show was the benefit. Think “Tony and Tina’s Wedding” meets the high school in “Grease”—a high school where Danny would rather cavort with the captain of the football team and Sandy could be found under the bleachers rather than cheering in front of them. Mix it all “with a healthy dose of ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show,’” said attendee Greer Firestone (director of “Best of Broadway”). Greer, with prom date Sherry Heal, had enjoyed “Rocky Horror” at the New Candlelight Theatre the night before.
Guests in prom attire entered the cavernous OperaDelaware rehearsal hall, which was decked out with student-made banners (“Faries 4 Eva” and “U got Fairy Fever”), glitter stars, black balloons and a photo station for prom couples, draped in blue velvet. Winterthur Garden Day organizer Sara Davenport and her husband, Kevin, were snapped in their vintage finery. Sarah was thrilled to wear the same black-satin goth-girl prom dress she wore in high school.
Attendee Valerie Jermusyk, director of development for DCAD, understands the importance of a unified and content student body. DCAD students have even more to be happy about, thanks to Tatiana Copeland, who recently gave the college $350,000 for a new student center.
Cast members from City Theater Company included Jim McCabe as principal William Warren, Georgina Staley as class prez Nancy Rodham-Clinton Black, Gordon Holmes as best wide receiver Chip Hancock, Kerry Kristine McElrone as the popular Heather Reese Autumn and Todd Holtsberry as Bud “Groober” Goobarowski, the football coach, bus driver, janitor and mathlete coach. The entire cast of 18 stayed in character all night. Senior superlatives included Most Fertile for the pregnant CoCo Toscadero, and Most Likely to Kill a Man to Josephine “Joey” Walnuts.
“I think we’ve found our theme,” said CTC director of communications Michelle Kramer Fitzgerald. We couldn’t agree more. May they never graduate. Ciao for now.
Page 4: First State Fashion Plate
The Belles and Beaus of the Balls