Wearing Mardi Gras beads, bearing heaping plates of Louisiana cuisine and sipping finely aged wine, about 350 people enjoyed Hot August Nights on Saturday, socializing and dancing to live music and enjoying the night, all to help the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center.
The event was held at Mann Biomedical Park, a familiar spot for charitable fundraisers. Guests mingled along a long row of more than 50 baskets up for bids in a silent auction, with some of the more popular items gathering a crowd (an electric cooler unit with several bottles of wine garnered one of the highest bids); many of the items matched the Mardi Gras theme.
The live auction was spirited, especially on items such as a night at the Hollywood Bowl Sound of Music sing-along with Charmain Carr, who played Liesl and a day with the LA County Sheriff’s SWAT team. A Chihuahua puppy, brought to the event by Diane Sevanian, only left her arms for a few minutes, as she kept her bid number held high. She purchased the puppy’s sister just days earlier and acquired the “auction puppy” at the same time, but having both at her house made her fall in love with the miniature cuddly canines.
“I can’t bear to let it go,” she said, cuddling the tiny puppy in a bright pink wrap after a winning bid of $700.
The biggest moneymaker was a four-night stay in New Orleans, with airfare, private dinners and entertainment included that went for $3,000 – four times. The silent and live auction raised more than $40 thousand dollars and guests were also given the opportunity to sponsor seniors who receive services and participate in programs at the Newhall center.
“We are happy with the party,” said Kathy Crone, the Senior Center’s Director of Development. “We knew moving the event to the evening would be a change, and it turned out people liked it. We walked the fine line between raising money for a worthy cause and throwing a party that people enjoyed and had a good time.”
The Mardi Gras theme was a departure from the Center’s traditional Wine Auction, that started at Le Chene French Restaurant up Sierra Highway in Canyon Country. The daytime event was popular, but was waning in its appeal, with only 191 people attending the event in 2007. Last year, the wine auction’s site was changed to Mann Biomedical and attendance was 402.
“We weren’t sure what to expect,” Crone said. “But we figure there were 350 people there. We found some things we will fine-tune, but I think we made leaps and bounds tonight.”
Foundation President Patti Rasmussen surveyed the crowd as the auctioneer closed the final item – a painting of the evening’s sunset by artist Randall Williams.
“I’m amazed at the generosity of everyone in this community,” she said. “I think they were moved by the video (highlighting the Home Delivered Meals program, the evening’s prime beneficiary) and it goes to show that everybody cares about seniors in this community. Everyone’s got a mom, a dad, a grandma and grandpa and they can relate.”
She also hailed the work of the event chair, Jill Bondy and her crew, who Rasmussen said “went above and beyond.”