Was this the year that our local United Way grew up? Some seem to think so. Over the past 25 years, United Way has raised millions of dollars for local charities with everything from garage sales to bowling tournaments, wild costume parties and lots of long walks.
(Photo: Marc Glassman/Special to The Desert Sun)
However, for the past few years, its annual gala has become more sophisticated and mature – as have many of its top supporters.
Well, let's see. Who is the most sophisticated person in the world? What's that you say? James Bond? Right! So this year's gala, held amid the luxurious perfection of the Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage ballroom, was "Shaken, Not Stirred" and filled with sophisticated Bond inspirations. Thelively entertainment and dance music was provided by Sensation Showband, augmented by “Spectre” and Skyfall” signature martinis, a decadent meal and about 300 guests dressed to the nines… maybe even a few tens.
The presenting sponsor was ingiGO Auto Group’s Aston Martin Rancho Mirage, whose stripped-down, Bond-type speedster was the lobby's centerpiece, as guests mingled, “Celebrating The Community Bond”.
Other major sponsors were El Paseo Jewelers, Southern California Edison and the City of Rancho Mirage. The movie-themed VIP table sponsors– each one named after a 007 film --included Carl's Jr., Desert Regional Medical Center, Edison, Pacific Western Bank, the City of Palm Springs, Rabobank, Spotlight 29 and the 29 Palms Band of Mission Indians, Walter Clark Legal Group, and Wells Fargo.
The program included announcements by:
- Executive Director Kristal Granados, who pointed out that 48 percent of our local children are living in poverty, most of whom do not have educational material in the home. Kristal focused on the need to give these children a quality education and the necessary tools to succeed. Generous guests raised their paddles to provide years’ worth of educational supplies to children in need.
- Presenting sponsor Todd Blue of the indiGO Auto Group Rancho Mirage, who has sponsored the gala for the second consecutive year, said that his group “proudly supports The United Way of the Desert because we are aligned with its mission to build stronger and more resilient communities through educational, financial and health related programs.”
- Mr. Raju Mehta and his wife, Shrijit of El Paseo Jewelers, were also delighted to be part of an event that supports the local community in so many ways.
The 12-piece band from Sand Diego, along with their “Bond Girl” dancers opened with a special Bond-medley and had the dance floor filled even before the infused-melon & feta salad was served. All those beautiful dancing couples were a sight for sophisticated eyes wearing Gucci sunglasses.
Some of the live auction's sophisticated temptations included:
- A priceless, purebred champion-sired Yorkshire Terrier donated by Paula and Carl Karcher (Carl's Jr.)
- An exclusive helicopter tour with the Riverside County Sherriff's Department.
- Diamonds Are Forever, 7-carat diamond bracelet from El Paseo Jewelers, valued at $12,000.
- A private Culinary Adventure for 10, donated by June Hill's Table, Trilogy at The Polo Club.
- A two-bedroom condo in Huntington Beach for the month of September, donated by Mr.Gabe Aguirre.
Among the sophisticated names in the crowd were Palm Springs Mayor Robert Moon, City of Indian Wells Mayor Pro Tem Richard Balocco, City of Indio Councilmember, Michael Wilson, City of Rancho Mirage Mayor Ted Weill and Councilmembers Richard Kite, Iris Smotrich and Dana Hobart.
Ticket prices began at $275 each, the VIP tables of 10 sold for $3,500 and the total funding raised was estimated at $160,000. This will translate into meals and food supplies for more than 150,000 local citizens, plus hundreds of other services provided by United Way partner organizationswhose programs provide the pillars for a good quality of life – education, income stability and health, including access to quality preschool education, mental health counseling, access to food services, mentoring for at-risk children and many, many more vital services.
Among those thanked for giving a full year of hard work to this event were Eevet Edens, marketing and events manager, Board Members Scott Kiner of Kiner Communications and Jeff Hocker of Hocker Productions for donating their time and talent. But the loudest thank-you applause was reserved for United Way board member, Lynne Stephenson, who chaired the event. Stephenson's day job is also on the sophisticated side -- as executive assistant to the publisher of The Desert Sun.
Upcoming United Way events include The Nine Weekly Walks & Workplace Wellness Campaign, The Kickoff Luncheon in September, and the Round for Impact Golf Tournament in December.
For more information, phone 760-323-2731 or visit www.unitedwayofthedesert.org. Tip: Put yourself on their free mailing list for announcements of future events.
- Betty Francis, Special to The Desert Sun