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Alive and well

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Charity work is thriving in New Orleans

A special evening of dinner and drinks took place at Arnaud’s Restaurant to honor chairpersons and others who have dedicated countless hours to various charitable organizations over the years. The event also served as a precursor to the upcoming charity galas to be held throughout the year.

“These are the people who have constantly given their blood, sweat, tears and love to New Orleans all of the time, not only when they are chairing events,” said Lisa Sins, director of sales and marketing for Arnaud’s. “These chairs are real ambassadors for the city,” said Katy Casbarian, vice president of Arnaud’s. “This is just our little part in thanking them for their charity work in New Orleans to help those who are not as privileged as others.”

Guests mingled and enjoyed libations in Arnaud’s Gold Room before being seated in the elegant Irma Room, which was thoughtfully appointed with gorgeous floral arrangements provided by Glenn Vesh of Perfect Presentations Exclusive Floral Designs. One of the city’s premier event designers, Glenn Vesh is intimately involved with charitable functions in New Orleans. In an impromptu speech, he took the opportunity to thank Arnaud’s for recognizing the efforts of the chairs. “There would be no culture if it wasn’t for you, Arnaud’s.”

A fabulous multicourse menu was expertly prepared by chef de cuisine Gaetano DiGiovanni and his talented staff, starting with an exquisite appetizer of smoked pompano accompanied by frozen Grey Goose vodka. Next came a classic turtle soup with a splash of sherry, along with Sonoma- Cutrer Chardonnay. Guests were then delighted with fresh lobster poached in cream with a spot of caviar. Quail á l’orange, with Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon, and a tender filet au poivre were marvelous. Arnaud’s signature dessert, flamed strawberries Arnaud and dense chocolate devastation, rounded out a most perfect meal.

As guests enjoyed one another’s company throughout the evening, one topic of conversation consistently rang through: upcoming or recently held fund-raising galas. Raising significant monies for meaningful work, research and awareness, these events are a sheer delight for all who attend.

Recent galas
Marbury Little reported that the New Orleans affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer
Foundation’s Summer Cure Chefs’ Wine Dinner and Silent Auction, held in July at theWindsor Court Hotel, was a smashing success. “We raised over $70,000 that evening, which is so important since so many people are touched by breast cancer in their lifetime,” said Little, who, along with Pat Denechaud, has been involved with the organization in New Orleans for years.

“I’m a perfect example of someone who is a breast cancer survivor,” said Denechaud, who had breast cancer almost 20 years ago. “So it really is special to see the people involved with the Komen Foundation making a difference in the community. So much of what is raised goes to research and that is what the cure is all about.”

The American Cancer Society’s Hope Gala was held August 12, at the Shops at Canal Place, with a silent auction and patron party prior to the gala at Morton’s Steakhouse of Chicago. Nicole LaBadot, event manager for the gala, said that sponsorship and participation from restaurants and local companies was surprisingly high this year. The event raised $110,000, which will be used for funding research, advocacy and patient services. “The Patrick F. Taylor Hope Lodge has recently come to fruition, which is a 34-room facility for cancer patients traveling 30 miles or more from their treatment facility to stay free of charge,” said, “and it is beautiful. When our first patient arrived, we were so excited. It’s a huge step for us.”

Upcoming galas
Angele Darling is looking forward to the Komen Foundation’s Annual Salute to Survivors Luncheon on Friday, September 15, at the Sheraton, and also the Race for the Cure on Sunday, October 1, at City Park.

“I’ve had a friend who has battled the disease for 10 years and today we are seeing such innovation in treatment,” said Darling. “People need to know that you can have the disease in 1997 and still be here in 2007.”

Dr. Russell Klein, associate dean at LSU Medical School in charge of the alumni affairs development, said that after a terrible year of destruction and evacuating to Baton Rouge, the school has been in use since January, save for the dental school, which suffered catastrophic damage. “We appealed to our alumni outside of the storm area and in a few weeks collected nearly one million dollars, which was used for such necessary things as student housing,” said Klein.

“Currently we’re re-creating and expanding our learning center, which was a state-of-the-art simulation center.” In the midst of the school’s Diamond Jubilee, events continue to be celebrated. “We had a recreation of the establishment of the school in January with an actor hired to play Huey Long; we had the 75th reunions in June; and on October 7 at the Ritz-Carlton, we’re going to have the first day of the next 75 years,” said a proud Klein.

Tiffany Adler, who was the 2005 chair of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art’s gala with friend Beth Trotter, said that although their event was canceled last year due to Katrina, this year’s “O What a Night” on October 21 will be a wonderful “vertical party” to
benefit the museum. “It will definitely be a visual feast,” said Adler, regarding the implementation of the five floors of the museum as locations for different parts of the menu. “Hors d’oeuvres will be on one, soup and salad on two … You have to eat your way up,” said Adler. “Most who have donated to us in the past will be participating again, if they are able to.”

Judy David is chairing Odyssey Ball 2006 for the New Orleans Museum of Art, which takes place Saturday, November 11, and includes a patron party and ball. “The House of Blues is recreating its Foundation Room, Casa Samba and stilt walkers will entertain, and we are always coupled with an exhibition of our wonderful art museum,” said David. This year’s Carnival theme promises an upbeat, happy time for attendees. “We are going to make it work because we couldn’t have it last year, and this will be a grand rebirth of Odyssey Ball; it’s going to be the most fun, fabulous and colorful event in the whole wide world.” Kay McArdle, auction chair for Odyssey, added, “We’ll have about 50 high-end items at the auction; New Orleans businesses have been very supportive in donating.”

On Saturday, January 13, the Arts Council of New Orleans will hold the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra Sinfonica Ball at the Foundry, featuring dinner, dancing and a special concert by the full orchestra. According to Pam Ryan, chairman of the board, it will have a Latin flair to it “because our new conductor is from Mexico.” Ryan described Maestro Carlos Miguel Prieto as “marvelous, young, with an incredible personality and phenomenal for coming to New Orleans. He has some great ideas for tapping into the educational system of the city and may be going to areas where the symphony has never played,” said Ryan.

Melissa Scandaliato told us that the Junior League of New Orleans gala will be held at the J. W. Marriott on Friday, January 26, and that there will be plenty of restaurants donating to the event. “Instead of an auction this year, we’ll be doing a high-end raffle,” said Scandaliato. “Everyone is excited and has pulled together since Katrina, and I think we are going to have a great year.” Co-chair Helen Butcher added, “People are coming back gung-ho to support the Junior League. We had an event in April and I was overwhelmed by the response from merchants.”

Diane Dupin, president of the Musical Arts Society of New Orleans, told us that Nocturne V, to be held Sunday, February 11, at the Ritz-Carlton, will feature cocktails and a recital by renowned pianist Garrick Ohlsson, followed by a seated dinner. “We’re having lots of support in this post-Katrina world,” notes Dupin. “Four of our previous medal winners from our international piano competition raised almost $100,000 to help us support our mission statement of classical music in New Orleans, because
all of our fund-raising efforts were destroyed during this past year.”

Martha Conover will chair the Men of Fashion Luncheon in mid-April, where 10 male and 10 female best-dressers in the city will be nominated. “People want to have fun, and all the money raised from that luncheon will go to support the New Orleans Ballet Association,” said Conover.

“BRAVO is trying to create more enthusiasm and energy with the ballet this year,” Leslie Stokes said. “We have Joffrey and several other large ballets interested in coming down and doing free, stellar performances. But I think what’s more important about the local organization is that it is free dance for inner-city children, and it’s exciting to be a part of the rebuilding now,” said Stokes.

“In the spring, I’ll be chairing the New Orleans Ballet Association’s patron party for their extravaganza,” Jude Swenson told us.

“Raising funds and charitable donations is a real challenge, but the rewards are always worth the effort. It’s been more challenging to raise funds since Katrina, but charity is alive and well,” said Swenson. “I feel very fortunate to be part of the tapestry that
helps weave our continued cultural legacy and our ever-present need for the relief of human suffering and renewed dignity.”