What: Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Leukemia Ball.
Where: Washington Convention Center.
When: Saturday, March 27. The VIP Chairman’s Reception kicked off at 6, and the main event got under way around 8.
Ticket price: Corporate tables started at $10,000.
Dress code: Black tie.
Who: About 2,500 Washington businessmen and women, do-gooders, and leukemia- and lymphoma-patient ambassadors and survivors were dolled up for the 23rd annual fundraising gala. The affair raised more than $3 million and featured John Pinette, the very funny 1999 American Comedy Awards Comedian of the Year and the carjacking victim from the famous last episode of Seinfeld. He was fresh off his Broadway, where he played Edna Turnblad in Hairspray. There was a soulful rendition of America performed by Will Mincey; a color-coordinated quartet of local anchorwomen—NBC 4’s Lindsay Czarniak, Fox 5’s Laura Evans, WUSA 9’s Andrea Roane, and ABC 7’s Alison Starling—as emcees; and musical guest and Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Jackson Browne. Redskins quarterback and Leukemia activist Jason Campbell was in attendance, as was a tiara-sporting Jen Corey, Miss District of Columbia 2009. Also on the guest list were CEOs, board members, and staff of the event’s long list of corporate sponsors such as Baker Tilly, PhRMA, Eli Lilly and Company, Mercedes-Benz, and American Airlines.
The scene: In keeping with the evening’s “Under the Stars” theme, the convention center’s ballroom was dotted with twinkling lights and a blue-and-purple color scheme that matched guests’ tuxedos and sparkling gowns. Top-hatted doormen welcomed guests to the event, which started with a cocktail hour. Attendees had time to peruse hundreds of silent-auction items, which included everything from a cooking class at Paris’s Le Cordon Bleu school to a cast-signed movie poster for New Moon. Couples danced on the evening’s island-like stage until the night’s program started with welcoming remarks from LLS’s National Capital Area Chapter executive director Donna McKelvey, Baker Tilly CEO Tim Christen, ball cochairs Ed Offterdinger of Baker Tilly and Steven Lilly of NRUCFC, and David Timko, a lymphoma patient and LLS’s senior vice president for volunteer engagement.
After dinner, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house when the Hodges family shared the story of their one-year-old daughter Sydney’s battle with leukemia. Sydney’s teary mother thanked the crowd for “helping us bring Sydney home.” Later, Pinette had the group laughing with his comedy routine that touched on health food, shopping, and waiting in line. Sports broadcaster Al Koken auctioned off the night’s three grand prizes, including a tee time at St. Andrews golf course in Scotland for $10,500 and tickets to this year’s Grammys and official after-party for $14,000. To close the evening, Browne brought the crowd to its feet and onto the dance floor with old hits such as “Boulevard” and “Everywhere I Go.”
Food and drink: Dinner included a first course of smoked salmon with goat cheese, Thai cucumber salad, and micro-greens with ginger dressing; grilled beef tenderloin with ginger-sesame sea bass, wasabi mashed potatoes, Oriental ratatouille, and asparagus; and a delicious chocolate-raspberry Charlotte with pineapple, papaya, and piña colada relish and a white-chocolate card with the LLS logo. To drink, guests could choose between Barefoot Merlot or Pinot Grigio.
Coolest fundraising gadget: For the first time in a large-scale setting, the night’s silent auction used the very nifty Bidpal, an iPod Touch-like tool that allowed attendees to bid or donate from anywhere throughout the night, keep track of their bid, or enter a maximum bid and let the gadget keep bidding for them. The toys also came in handy during the event’s Bid for a Cure portion, when the emcees encouraged the group to reach a $100,000 donation goal in only a few minutes. The rising total appeared on the ballroom’s big screens, and the group quickly passed the $100,000 mark using the hand-held devices.
Boldface names: 4 out of 5.
Swankiness: 5 out of 5.
Food and drink: 4.5 out of 5.
Overall exclusivity: 4.5 out of 5.
Total score: 18 out of 20.