Gala garden party starts new fundraising tradition for Blount Memorial Foundation

Responsible for bringing an elegant, yet casual garden party theme to the plaza at the Clayton Center for the Arts were Jane Andrews, Linda Chapman, Carole Chambers, Dawn Spangler, Christine Miller and Debbie Dunlap, who all spent hours decorating and preparing the venue.

Photo by Jolanda Jansma

Responsible for bringing an elegant, yet casual garden party theme to the plaza at the Clayton Center for the Arts were Jane Andrews, Linda Chapman, Carole Chambers, Dawn Spangler, Christine Miller and Debbie Dunlap, who all spent hours decorating and preparing the venue.

For a few hours on Saturday evening, May 7, a breeze drifted through the canopied plaza at the Clayton Center for the Arts and guests clad in seersucker suits and sundresses forgot they were on a plaza and drifted into a garden party.

It was the inaugural Sassafras Ball, a formal affair with a casual attitude. About 140 turned out to enjoy dinner, dancing and bidding on silent auction items - all to benefit the Cancer Patient Support Fund of the Blount Memorial Foundation.

“I’m very pleased,” Blount Memorial Foundation executive director Jane Andrews said.

It has been a couple years since the foundation hosted a formal fundraising event. The last such annual affair had been the Valentine’s Gala. The gala had become a tradition, with the meal catered by the hospital but held at homes of volunteer hosts, with a gathering for dessert at the Airport Hilton. Monies raised went to the hospital’s Good Samaritan Clinic.

“You go into a new event, especially after we had taken a few years off from doing a big social things, and you’ve never to sure what to expect,” said Andrews. “But we were very, very pleased. We had a great attendance and a lot of people who couldn’t come made contributions to the Cancer Patient Support Fund,” she said. “The staff in Food Nutrition and Maintenance were overwhelming in making people feel welcome and comfortable. I’m not sure I would change a thing.”

Campbell Tent and Party Rentals set up a tent that covered the entire plaza and Andrews said guests were pleasantly surprised at how they transformed the plaza into a garden venue under roof. “It was funny. People kept saying, ‘Are we going inside?’” she said.

Andrews said a breeze kept temperatures comfortable as folks mingled. “I saw groups of people, several generations of people, visiting. It was special to have a good time and enjoy great food and company,” she said. “Knowing it was helping people who were struggling with a cancer diagnosis was that perfect meshing of a good time for a worthy cause.”

Andrews said the folks attending enjoyed themselves and came decked out in seersucker suits, sundresses and hats. “It was a very fun group. People weren’t anxious to sit down to dinner. They were enjoying visiting with one another during cocktails,” she said. “The event flowed beautifully. We had a great band - The Uptown Entertainment Band from Atlanta - who performed. They liked our crowd and want to come back. Everyone was dancing and having a good time.”

The executive director said proceeds from the auction items are still being counted. “My goal had been between $10,000 and $12,000 raised for the Cancer Patient Support fund,” she said. “I think we’ll be close. I’m a fundraiser, and I would like to have had 500, but this was a good crowd for the space we had. I’m very pleased because for the first time out, you never know what is going to come.”

Andrews thanked Joy Carver and Abby Bussey for co-chairing the event. “I appreciate their efforts,” she said. “We had a lot of people miss who wanted to help us next year, and I’ve certainly look forward to it.”

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