Sunday, May 20, 2012

My Evening At A Gala

I love new experiences. I also enjoy going out in the evening, but nowadays I can only go out in the evening if one of my children or a friend drives. I have nightblindness, and I have no sense of direction (I've been getting lost wherever I go since I was five years old and got lost at Knott's Berry Farm), making it unwise for me to venture out alone at night. So, when an opportunity to have a new experience in the evening pops up, and I have someone to drive me, I seize the opportunity with gusto. Just such an opportunity occurred last night, when Grant and I volunteered to help his girlfriend at a gala.

Leanne, Grant's girlfriend, works for the Carmel Foundation, and each year they hold a fundraising gala for their transportation program to help seniors. Leanne had enlisted her mother, dad, and Grant as volunteers, and when one of the other volunteers had to bow out, I was delighted to fill in. I had never been to a gala before, and I eagerly anticipated the experience.

Grant and I arrived at the event promptly at 5:00 PM, arriving at the same time as Leanne's parents, Sheila and Harvey. We were all dressed nicely, but it was Leanne who stole the show. She was stunning in a gorgeous little black dress. Sheila also looked lovely in a little black dress. I no longer wear little black dresses because I think they look best worn with heels, and a broken foot almost twenty years ago makes it impossible for me to wear heels anymore. So, I was dressed in a pretty blouse and black pants. Harvey looked nice in a shirt and tie, and Grant looked incredibly handsome in his clothes; he could be a GQ model.

After hugs all around and introductions to Leanne's colleagues, we got to work greeting the attendees. We handed them their table seat number and their bidding paddle number and sent them into the silent auction to find items on which to bid. I met a charming Scot and his wife. He was surprised when I asked if he were Scottish, and he brightened perceptively when he learned about our Scottish family members. He had been to Orkney, as have Grant and I, so we had a chat about that, agreeing the Scapa single Malt whiskey is divine.

After a bit, I ventured into the silent auction room, though it was anything but silent. The attendees were drinking wine and chatting while looking over the goodies. I had donated a copy of my book, Dueling With Dementia: Not The Love Story We Planned, but no one had bid on it. I told Leanne if it didn't sell, she should put it in the foundation's library. 

At 7:00 PM, we were finished greeting the attendees. Grant and Harvey were going to be spotters for the live auction during the meal. Two people did not show up for the gala, so Leanne's boss told Sheila and me to go and sit in their spots. The dinners were paid for, and she said they should not go to waste. Sheila and I were seated at the table where the foundation's CEO and husband were sitting. We ate the very good dinner, and I idly mused about what it must be like to have enough discretionary income that you could bid $3500 on something for charity's sake and not bat an eyelid. The emcee was resplendent in a tux with a red cummerbund and bow tie. He did an excellent job of entertaining us while he cajoled the most money he could out of the attendees for the various auction items. 

A highlight of the evening was when Bill, the main Foundation driver, told us stories about driving seniors to appointments and shopping. We could see how much he loves the people that he drives, and how much they love him.

But the pièce de résistance of the gala was Susan Egan, a former Broadway star with one of the most amazing voices I've ever heard. She was funny and heartwarming and the perfect entertainer. We gave her a standing ovation, and she rewarded us with an encore. If you do not know Susan Egan, you can youtube her and hear her glorious voice. I cannot possibly say that one song was better than another; they were all wonderful because her voice and personality put you under her spell, and you become part of her joy. Susan sang this lovely song, "Nina Doesn't Care", that she wrote awhile after her first daughter was born, and there was not a dry eye in the room.

After the gala was over, Sheila, Harvey, Grant, and I sat around an outdoor fire pit and talked, while Leanne took care of paperwork. My book did sell. Sheila, bless her heart, bid on it so that my book wouldn't be the only item not purchased. Grant told me that another person had bid on it too.

The four of us wondered back into the building, found Leanne, and took photos to remember the lovely evening filled with bonhomie and goodwill. A good time was had by all, and the foundation raised lots of money to keep its program to drive seniors going for another year. With hugs all around, we said our good-nights, and headed home happy that we had all, in our way, helped make the world a little bit better.

I'm already looking forward to next year's gala and hope that Leanne will want Sheila, Harvey, Grant, and me to volunteer again.

Take care,


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