Photographs by Rena Schild
What: CharityWorks 2011 Dream Ball: The Road to Shangri-La
Where: National Building Museum
When: October 15, 2011
Tickets: $500 and up
Who: A relaxed, friendly crowd showed off Asian-inspired garb. At the door to greet every guest were: Leah Gansler, founder of CharityWorks and a former Washingtonian of the Year; Warrenton, Virgnia-based interior designer Barry Dixon; Norma Ramsey, wife of George Washington University Board of Trustees chairman Russ Ramsey; and Mark Lowham, a principal partner at Sotheby’s DC real estate office. Also on hand were multiple Mantech executives, including CEO and Chairman of the Board George Pedersen. Marcia Carlucci, wife of former Reagan defense secretary Frank Carlucci was also there, along with Phillips Collection Director Dorothy Kosinski; and Los Angeles-based interior designer Kathryn Ireland, of Bravo’s Million Dollar Decorator. All were there to celebrate Norma Ramsey’s philanthropic work and CharityWorks’s 2011 partner organizations, ThanksUSA and Live It Learn It.
Food and drink: In keeping with the “road to Shangri-La” theme, everything had an Eastern twist. The silent auction was paired with drinks (Villa Marina wines and marigold-garnished mai tais, as well as an open and well-stocked bar) and light, Asian-fusion appetizers, like Peking duck and pork quesadillas.
Dinner was light, thoughtful, and delicious: a curried pumpkin soup amuse-bouche, tuna carpaccio with a ginger slaw and a dollop of wasabi mayo, Asian-glazed beef medallions with edamame and risotto, and for dessert cheesecake, sorbet, and fortune cookies.
Scene: With two Thai manohra dancers decked out in shimmery satin and gold costumes acting as greeters, it became clear upon entry that this event was completely over-the-top in the best possible way. Two women in full kimonos played the koto during the silent auction. Japanese drummers sounded the call to dinner, and, as guests got settled into the dining room, a sequin-covered contortionist performed.
Before dinner, hosts Dixon and Lowham (and Virginia senator Mark Warner via video) honored Ramsey’s charity work in the community.
After a dragon paraded through the dining room before dessert, a live auction, led by former contestant from The Apprentice Joe Solovey, netted $14,000 for a set of celebrity-worn jewelry (including a ring J.Lo once wore on American Idol) and $28,000 for two winners to spend a week at Ireland’s French villa.
Each organization CharityWorks sponsored in 2011 sent a representative to attendees in the crowd to thank them for their generous donations: Army Lieutenant Colonel Lanier Ward, whose injuries while serving in Iraq inspired his neighbor’s daughters to start ThanksUSA, shared the importance of helping returning veterans get college scholarships for their families.
SEED middle schooler Clinard Smith took to the microphone to quiz—and charm—the crowd, showing off his knowledge of the Library of Congress’s history he gathered on a Live It Learn It field trip. His speech brought attendees to their feet and netted more than a few $3,000 donations in the last moments of dinner.
Boldface names: Two out of five.
Swankiness: Five out of five.
Food: Four out of five.
Exclusivity: Three out of five.
Total: 14 out of 20.