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Hello, dahlings! Call it synchronicity, call it coincidence, but Mission Possible, the 2006 Diabetes Gala, happened to fall on the same date as the wedding of that “Mission: Impossible” megastar Tom Cruise. Happy to report, the black-tie dinner-dance and auction, held at Archmere Academy, boasted its own luminaries: honorees Nash Childs, a powerhouse for the American Diabetes Association Delaware Affiliate, and U.S. Congressman Mike Castle, a sponsor of stem-cell research legislation and oh-so-much more. “As you all know, I’ve had some health issues of my own this year,” Mike quipped upon being introduced by Darrin Anderson, the affiliate’s executive director. This took place after actors from the Wilmington Drama League, disguised as trench-coated spies, greeted guests and before 9-year-old Madison Dodge, the  good will ambassador, warbled “Over the Rainbow” and stumped for the Children’s Sugar-Free Retreat. But say, wasn’t this a night when everybody opened their hearts—and their wallets? Janet DeLuca, wife of Senate Majority Whip Anthony DeLuca, made the supremely generous gesture of recycling her winning half of the 50/50 raffle back to the beneficiary. (Silent and live auctions combined raised $70,000.) We heard disaster was narrowly averted the day before, when gale winds huffed and puffed and blew a tent down, according to hardworking co-chair Leslie Simendinger. The snappy younger set was represented by Renee Ruddy, Marika and Kevin White, Shannon and Gerard Kavanaugh, Amy and Devon Martin, Scott Foelker, Pam and Bradley Simendinger, and Crystal and Jeffrey Simendinger. Elizabeth Dougherty, who’s in marketing for the Delaware Affiliate, smoldered in a gold-toned, halter-necked dress and updo. After that decadent chocolate dessert was polished off, Congressman Mike danced with adorable Maddie to the rockin’ music of Amsterdam. Then Mike boogied with his chic wife, Jane Castle. The weather outside was frightful. We were all spies who came in from the cold.

 

PUTTING ON THE DOG

Barkus, the Dog of Wine, invited us to the ninth annual Wine Auction and Dinner for Canine Partners For Life. Never one to miss a trick, Barkus (or somebody) asked guests to don whimsical dog collars as part of their dressy attire. Everyone looked bow-Wow! Tory Diffenderffer, event sponsor, lit up the ballroom at the DoubleTree Hotel in a flashing Christmas collar from Whiskazz and Pawzz that complemented her red-and-black gaucho pants ensemble. Tor’s friend Ashley Vincent of Haverford, Pennsylvania, took a sporty approach with a squeaky duck toy suspended from her neck. Volunteer Brian Kent wore Sirius-the-dog-star linkage with his tux. Then there was Tom (Sasse) Downer, who lives by the Sassafras River, making breathy, woofing noises in a gold chain leash. “I’m half dog. I’m half person,” he told Gabby—as if that explained things. Sometimes, a stylish stab went awry. We caught Julie McKeever, who works for ALS Muscular Dystrophy Association, in the ladies’ room adjusting the letters on her collar, which said “Ecke” instead of Decker, a black lab owned by honoree Sally McLaughlin. Appropriately, Ron Deptula of Wilmington combined themes in a collar of plastic grapes and doggie biscuits. “I just hope we don’t have any real hungry dogs, y’know?” he said with a slightly worried look. Ron’s wife, Nikki Deptula, went pretty with butterflies on a collar that said “I Love My Dog,” a paean to Garver, the yellow lab service dog who accompanied her. Note: Not everyone embraced pooch power as a motif. Nancy Bercaw of New London, Pennsylvania, sparkled in a silver-and-teal necklace made from a Herr’s potato chips bag, while Mike Crayton of Hockessin poured wine in a skull-and-crossbones design he described as “that Johnny Depp pirate thing.” Fun prizes were awarded for top-dog collars. Susan Fontaine garnered a bottle of champagne for the category “most likely to be coveted by a dog.” Not that CPL’s beloved service dogs—the benefit’s self-effacing scene-stealers—were neglected, sartorially speaking. Darlene Sullivan, founder and executive director of CPL, wrapped a golden bow on her Ripley, age two, while Lauren, a puppy from Wisconsin, looked younger than springtime in a pink May queen collar with rosebuds. Maybe they’ve been shopping at the L Boutique.

 

ROOMS WITH A VIEW

“You’re looking well these days,” Tom Savage, director of museum affairs at Winterthur, told John Sweeney, curator emeritus. “Yes, I’m putting up a front,” Sweeney answered. This exchange occurred at the Opening Celebration of Yuletide at Winterthur: Wrapped in Holiday Style, where all the men looked well and the ladies looked even better in their seasonal finery. Mary Lou Kubacki of Hockessin stood out from the pack in a festive Santa sweater speckled with ornaments. There Fiechter of Wilmington toured the rooms in a red tweed, Chanel-style jacket that looked mighty snazzy. And everyone got a peek at how those du Ponts of yore lived inside their country estate. “Dessert could be as simple as ice cream. It wasn’t steak every night, nothing over the top,” guide Evelyn Freeman assured her group. But those blazing chandeliers! “It would be lovely to have a home decorated like this—with enough servants to clean all the things,” remarked Barbara Noseworthy, a visitor from Jacksonville, Florida. Jennifer and Mark Bilson, who wed at Winterthur in June, were among those enjoying cocktails and canapés at The Galleries. Armand Battisti, director of leadership gifts, said that membership was “holding its own” while Winterthur works to shed its stodgy image. Fait accompli!

 

ART ATTACK

There’s so much we want, but where can we put another original oil? That was the dilemma at Hadfield’s Seafood A Day Without Art for AIDS Delaware, which featured a bounty of 237 items in its live and silent auctions. Bill Montgomery, chief of staff to Wilmington Mayor Jim Baker, bid on a copper fireman’s trumpet “in the hopes of being able to give it to city fire chief Jim Ford when he retires,” plus a burgundy raffia handbag for Bill’s wife, Lyn Doto. Wilmington artist Maria Keane, who donated a silk-lined throw and one of her watercolor monoprints, bid on a collage called “How the West Was Won” by her friend Trina Gardner. “I love it. This is the best event of the year. There’s so much energy and the food is great,” Trina enthused, surveying the scene from a banquette in Costa’s Grill & Wine Bar. For Philip Cross, chair of AIDS Delaware, the occasion was bittersweet. “It’s a poignant time of year for me,” Phil remarked, noting that the party atmosphere coincided with World AIDS Day, and that he’d lost a partner to AIDS in ’95. John Baker, executive director of AIDS Delaware, was dressed to the nines in a shawl-collared, velvet tuxedo and merino wool turtleneck he described as “retro city chic.” John pointed out a live auction piece de resistance: Jamie Wyeth’s signed print, “Capturing Nureyev.” The many artistic treasures—from the hands of such heavyweights as Larry Anderson, Mary Page Evans, Molly Sanger Carpenter and, yes, Bill Montgomery—nearly formed a conga line that snaked into the lobby of the downtown Brandywine Building. New Castle County Executive Chris Coons arrived late, explaining he was recovering from the horrors of a gum transplant. “It hurts to smile,” he said. Earlier, host Costa Dimas and his wife, Anna, welcomed guests, holding their blanketed son, Simos, 3 ½ months. “He’s part of the auction,” Costa said…Ta-ta, ’til next time. 

D

 

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