What: The Twentieth and Grand Finale Best Buddies Ball honoring Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned of Qatar.
Where: The Home of Sargent and Eunice Shriver in Potomac.
When: Saturday, October 18, 6:30 PM.
Who: Best Buddies is a nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing the lives of those with intellectual disabilities through friendship and employment opportunities. It was founded in 1989 by Anthony Kennedy Shriver, who was emcee and welcomed everyone to his parents’ home. Clowns from Cirque du Soleil, Miss Teen USA Stevi Perry, Miss USA Crystle Stewart, Miss Universe Dayana Mendoza, and others greeted guests as they came in. Robert De Niro, a longtime supporter of Best Buddies, helped honor Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned, who received the Spirit of Leadership Award for her work in education and social reform around the world. The live auction brought a surprise visit from American Idol judge Randy Jackson, and Grammy Award winner Kenny G, who topped off the night with a musical performance.
Food and drink: The evening began with a silent auction and cocktail hour with light hors d’oeuvres and an open bar. Dinner was a three-course menu of seared jumbo sea scallops and wilted baby spinach salad with a fire-roasted-red-pepper sauce; lamb-shank tagine with Cerignola-olive mashed potatoes and honey-glazed baby beets and baby carrots; and a baklava tart garnished with figs and pistachios. Servers were on hand to refill glasses with red or white wine, and fully stocked bars anchored the room for more drink options including Grey Goose vodka and wines from Dean & DeLuca.
Scene: Guests had plenty of items to bid for in the silent auction, including sports memorabilia, vacations, jewelry, books, dinner packages, and a few priceless items from the Eunice Shriver and the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum. A live auction also took place during the cocktail hour, when auctioneer Patrick O’Neill auctioned off items such as a Hawaiian escape and a VIP trip to the Indy 500, both priced at $6,000.
The call to dinner was made promptly at 8, and everyone made their way to their tables in the main tent. In honor of Sheikha Mozah, there was an Arabic theme for the night. The tent was colorfully lit with reds and purples, and projectors illuminated the walls with outlines of peacocks and lions.
A wonderful performance from a few Cirque du Soleil dancers filled the time it took for servers to switch salad plates with entrées. Next, Shriver took the stage again to introduce a couple of buddies of his, Brett and Eric, who reminded the crowd why the Best Buddies organization was so important: “People like me can do anything,” Eric said. “Friendship is the fuel that makes this happen.”
Shriver introduced De Niro, who presented the Spirit of Leadership Award to Shiekha Mozah. She serves as chair of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development and was appointed special envoy for basic and higher education by UNESCO.
By the time of dessert, auctioneer O’Neill was back onstage conducting another live auction. The items included trips to Paris and Qatar, a 2008 Audi S8 Quattro AT6 customized by New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, and an autographed saxophone from Kenny G.
But the biggest surprise of the night came at the end of the live auction, when Shriver took the stage and invited Randy Jackson to join him to auction off two backstage passes to a taping of the new season of American Idol with Jackson as a guide. Both men worked the crowd to get the bid up to $32,000. Two bidders in particular were eyeing the prize, so after a quick huddle among Shriver, Jackson, and production people, Jackson announced that he was going to offer two more backstage passes. He then sold two each to the two bidders, making the total value $64,000. The quick wit of Shriver, Jackson, and the organizers to accommodate the other bidder and make more money for the organization was a highlight of the night and exemplified how dedicated Shriver is to this organization.
In the gift bag: A Best Buddies long-sleeved T-shirt from American Apparel, assorted cookies and sweets from Ridgewells Catering, hand-woven baskets from the Maasai women of Kenya, a sleeve of Callaway golf balls with the AT&T logo, a $15 gift certificate to Bottlenotes, a lipstick-shaped flashlight alarm clock with mirror from Elitronix, Dean & DeLuca milk-chocolate-and-caramel candy bar, a copy of Ability magazine, the October issue of Washington Life magazine, and a small packet of Skyn Icelandic eye-relief cream, a 20% off certificated for Korres Natural Products, a $15.00 gift certificate to Parkway Custom Drycleaning,a catalog for Dean & Deluca Wines, and 25% discount to Giftcorp.
Ratings (see our ratings explanation here):
Boldface names: 4 out of 5
Swankiness: 4 out of 5
Food and drink: 5 out of 5
Exclusivity: 3.5 out of 5
Total: 16.5 out of 20