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Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

festival of trees - a grownup prom

We began calling it "the Prom" as we decided what we would wear to Friday night's Festival of Trees fundraiser for BigBrothers BigSisters of Northeast Ohio at Quail Hollow.
The formal night would be quite a departure from our usual 6 a.m. gathering at Mentor Heisley Racquet & Fitness Club. We're all in the middle of our lives, mostly women and a few men, who do aerobics, work out with weights and other exercise equipment early each weekday morning. The sense of support we bring to our workouts has, over the past few years, extended to other parts of our lives. So when our workout colleague Kathie Hartman Frisby (at right, standing) invited us to the Nov. 20 Festival of Tree gala we began making our plans.

We agree with Kathie that taking care of the younger generations is vitally important and a look at the success that BigBrothers BigSisters has in doing that is convincing. Kathie is a Big Brothers board member and a tireless supporter of the cause. Their matches of adult mentors with children have had amazing results in the lives of kids from this area. I wrote about a few of the organization's programs a few weeks back and came away even more impressed with its impact. (See ; Nov. 8 )
The Festival of Trees was lots more than a great night out. Gorgeous Christmas trees, many decorated by pros, were auctioned off. Silent auction items ranging from spa services to ski weekends and even a hot water heater were represented at tables around the room.
Ohio wines were poured and hors d'oeuvres passed as we oohed and ahhed over how nice we all cleaned up. We couldn't help but notice how those abs and lats we work on at Heisley fit dress-up clothes.

Big Brother Joe Dalhausen and his Little Brother, Kyle of Mentor, spoke to us briefly about what their involvement has brought to their lives. It's clearly a win-win scenario for both of them and other Bigs and Littles.
Most of us had never really seen each other except without makeup, with our Tshirts and shorts drenched from working out. Now we were all glitter and shine, hair in place and elevated by heels; the guys resplendent in tuxedoes.

One of the tallest trees was a Wine Tree, with each of seven levels filled with bottles of wine. One level also included a week's getaway to Hilton Head while another included eight cases of wine. Raffle tickets were $20.
The evening's Dessert Dash was a really fun element. Elaborate desserts from a variety of food professionals overflowed a central table in the middle of the dance floor. Each 10-person table filled an envelope with donations and the top fundraisers got the honor of dashing for their choice of desserts.

A runner was appointed by each table. Since we work out together we knew that Nancy Crissinger (standing second from left, in photo above) was one of our speediest members. Nancy took off her shoes so as not to slide out of control on the dance floor and waited for the signal. But our table was not among the top donors, so she had to wait for others. She returned with a great plate of goodies which we all devoured. The next table, however, shared the cake it scored in the Dash.
The Dessert Dash alone raised $6,800 for BigBrothers BigSisters.

I'm hoping a blog reader involved with the group will send a message telling us how much the evening raised for the organization.
We all agreed that the Gala was a lot of fun. But since most of us are up every day around 5 a.m. to make it to the gym on time, we faded fast. I didn't even stay long enough to learn if I won any wine.
That's the down side to being an early riser.



Blogger Debra said...

A wonderful event for a great cause and a lot of fun!

November 21, 2009 at 4:49 PM 
Anonymous Karen said...

You captured our evening perfectly Janet! It truly was a spectacular evening spent with great friends for a terrific cause!

November 22, 2009 at 8:36 AM 
Anonymous Kathie said...

Janet, you add so much to our great group of workout buddies. Thank you for sharing your evening with us and taking the story to all of your readers. This is Big Brothers Big Sisters largest fund raiser and it means so much to have all of your support.

November 22, 2009 at 9:49 PM 
Blogger Jen said...

This was my first time attending the Festival of Trees, and I will definitely plan on going again. It was a fabulous evening. I was thrilled to show my support for such a great organization.

November 23, 2009 at 9:33 AM 
Anonymous Lynne Strah said...

Thank you for another great story! Big Brothers Big Sisters helps so many children; but it's quiet work that often goes unnoticed by the general public. You've helped bring us and our mission into the spot light. With 234 guest in attendance the Festival of Trees Gala was an exciting evening that we're glad you could share.

November 23, 2009 at 1:52 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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November 23, 2009 at 3:28 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heard a lot about this event. Your blog finally took me there. Ever Find out how much the evening?
My daughter and I always enjoy your stories.

November 25, 2009 at 10:25 AM 
Anonymous Janet Podolak said...

The Festival of Trees Gala yielded $51,000 for BigBrothers BigSisters of Northeast Ohio. That's according to a letter just received from Tim Kehres, the agency's executive director. "The generosity and support we received was unprecedented and will go a long way in allowing us to provide even more children with a mentor and positive role model," he wrote.

December 24, 2009 at 11:39 AM 

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