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Bon Jour, Red Balloon Brunch

Walking into the University & Whist Club on a quiet, bright Sunday morning, we felt as if we were arriving late for services rather than a fundraiser. Knowing the good work, education and hope the good people at the Wellness Community provide as an affiliate of the Cancer Support Community, the confusion was understandable. It wasn’t until a server offered a choice of Mimosas or Bloody Marys that we realized we’d be playing more than praying.

We were greeted by executive director Cindy Dwyer and president-elect David Albaugh, both dressed in their Sunday best and wearing their brightest smiles. Why the exclusive and venerable Whist Club, we asked? Plenty of room for guests and auction items, valet parking and fabulous food, they told us. The fabulous Susan T. Dubb, director of special events for The Wellness Community, added that it also gave “the public” a way to see the club’s beautiful interior.

But not all of it, we discovered. Photographer and breast cancer survivor Christine Eckery’s close-up of a white dahlia was displayed prominently on the grand staircase partly because of the great interest it drew as an auction item, and partly because it discouraged access to the second floor. That was OK. Upon spying the Lifetime Achievement Award honorees, the merry Midge and Verino Pettinaro, we knew the first floor was the place to be. The Pettinaros, just returned from Florida, were “happy and honored to be home to accept this wonderful award.” Plus, “It was only 64 degrees in Highland, and it’s 73 here at home,” Midge added.

The ballroom was decorated with dozens of eye-popping red balloons. Of the 85 silent auction items, a black-and-white Tory Burch tote bag donated by Peter Kate Shoes was a fave.

We next met up with 30-year Delaware resident and DuPont research engineer Stephan DeLaVeaux (French name, German accent—still) and his wife, Paulette, who in 2005 finished her chemo and beat her cancer. “The Wellness Community helped me regain my physical balance and mental clarity,” Paulette told us. “The tai chi classes-support group meetings were the best.” Her way of giving back? “I bid on all of the necklaces. The funkier and chunkier, the better. They lift my spirits.”

Lifting an entire wheelbarrow full of spirits was Wellness Community receptionist Mary Ann Dilworth, who was very busy collecting cash and dispensing raffle tickets for an earth-moving amount of liquid wellness. Mary joked with ready rafflers Mary Jane Koch, who drove from Virginia to meet friend and former Wellness Community member Deborah Welch, that if they purchased the whole roll, she’d “throw in the wheelbarrow.” It proved to be a hub of activity.

We met event chair Marcy Spivak, who credited “a very active and impassioned board who take their jobs very seriously” for The Wellness Community’s success. We also bumped into Lise Monty, who’d won last year’s barrow of cheer. “I still have one bottle of white Zin left,” she said. I’m looking for a home for it.”

From wine to pretty women: Susan Dubb’s 28-year-old daughter, the 2007 Governor’s Volunteer of the Year, modeled a turquoise, copper and glass bead necklace by Deanna Finocchiaro. Friend Kara LaFazia considered bidding on a family portrait by Creative Image photography. Big tribe? we asked. “I’m Italian,” Kara said. “What do you think”?
 

Page 2: Opening Minds by Opening Museums

 

Opening Minds by Opening Museums

The iconic volcano has been bulldozed where the old adult playground known as Kahunaville once stood. A new playground, designed for a much younger set, has since erupted on Wilmington’s Riverfront. The new Delaware Children’s Museum (more than 20 years in the making) finally welcomed the public—as well as donors, elected officials, board members and staff—to its new 37,000-square-foot crayon yellow building during its Grand Opening Gala. Big is the operative word here. The 76-page program book weighed more than a fourth-grader’s backpack, and gargantuan rumors circulated around the “cafeteria” early that the veep and his missus would appear. Of course, with Beau and Hallie Biden as chairs of the event, speculation soared.

No wonder there were so many security personnel at the entrance. Name on list? Check. Metal detector? Check. Camera bag inspected? Check.

Once we finally cleared, it was easy to find DCM public relations pro Paige Winburn, who looked pretty in I’m-with-the-museum yellow and welcomed as warmly as sunshine. She also introduced us to Kim Congo-Tucker, mother of Chandler, Cheris, and Chase, who, she said, “will love this place.” The family is moving back to Wilmo from Florida, where they often visit the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa. “With the DCM opening, we won’t have to go to Philly all of the time,” Kim told us. With interactive exhibits such as the three-story globe called The Stratosphere, a Funky Forest that lets kids shape their own environments, and with a money management center called Bank on It, Philly will be coming to us.

DCM executive director Julie Van Blarcom and board president Bill Smith were both very excited. “If I were five I’d be jumping up and down, but I’m not, darn it,” exclaimed Julie. She and Bill greeted the 900 guests joyfully, including U.S. Senator Tom Carper, “who has supported us through each mile of this journey,” Bill noted.

We found Greg and Patricia Gurev, whose IT company, My Sherpa, did all the DCM’s computer stuff (technical term). Patty looked lovely in a lavender ruffle-tiered cocktail dress. They agreed that opening DCM is “the tipping point for the riverfront.”

We also saw Bill Dowling of Mobius Media, the ever-stunning Nikki Maldonado of Salon 828, Peggy Courtney of the MOMs Committee with hubby Jeff Courtney of DCM sponsor J.P. Morgan, and Delebrity designer Stephen Mattola, who enjoyed some mutual admiration with Ms. Van Blarcom. Stephen was her go-to man for an early color consult.

Suddenly herded back to the press’s holding pen, I knew the Bidens had arrived. Joe (oops, I mean Mr. Vice President) and a very tan Beau both looked sharp. Hallie introduced her father-in-law and Jill. (Oops. I mean Mrs. Vice President). The vice president reminded us that “it’s not just about how things are built, but how they can build,” and that includes futures for DCM’s young visitors. Ciao for now.

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