A trio of recent events marqueed the moon for their merriment. To benefit its cancer programs, Ochsner presented “Moonlight & Miracles Gala” at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome; and, moving Uptown, Ursuline Academy held La Fete 287 with the main activity occurring in the beautiful French-style interior courtyard, and Magnolia Community Services Inc. held “Moonlight on the River 2014” on River Road in Jefferson. For all three, levity, luminosity and largesse blended.
With a committee of 160 women, including some of the best known names in the area, Gayle (Mrs. Tom) Benson chaired “Moonlight & Miracles Gala” on a recent Friday evening. “Colorful Cocktail” was the dress code. It was preceded two days earlier by a patron party presented by Owens & Minor at Club XLIV at Champions Square with Better than Ezra for the sonorous “signage” and Calvin and Frances Fayard and Terence Blanchard as top sponsors.
The gala itself thanked a plethora of people, starting with Gayle Benson, the chairwoman and the 2013 Once in a Blue Moon Award recipient. This year, those accolades went to Dr. John Bolton (Ochsner Cancer Institute) and Monica Mahaffie (“M & M” Committee). Notables were in abundance, including siblings Dr. John Ochsner (with spouse Mary Lou) and Isabel “Sis” Ochsner Mann (with son Alton “Tinker” Ochsner Davis), who are the son and daughter of one of Ochsner’s five founding fathers, the namesake Alton Ochsner. At Ochsner, one of the chief buildings is the Gayle and Tom Benson Cancer Center.
More headliners were Ochsner Health System President and CEO Warner L. Thomas and Linda, Brian Hebert, Sean Payton and Skylene Montgomery, Rob and Kristin Ryan, Chris Rubin, Gary Solomon Jr., Jose and Ileana Suquet, Paul and Donna Flower, Robert and Ann Boh, Archbishop Gregory Aymond, Anderson Baker, Carroll Suggs, Suzanne Mestayer, Bill and Mary Hines, and Bonnie Rault. Her late husband, Joseph M. “Joe” Rault Jr., who was depicted in the program, will be remembered in the Ochsner History Walk 2015. Sons Joseph Rault III and Miles Clements were among the “Miracles” many.
So were Dr. Rise Ochsner, Dr. Patrick and infanticipating Nga Quinlan, Pat O’Brien, Ph.D., Joyce and Sidney Pultizer, and Jennifer and Mason Couvillon, parents of little Grace Susan Couvillon, whose photo was also in the program. She was born at only 27 weeks, and, despite health hardships, she is “now flourishing under the care of her pediatrician, Renee Reymond, MD.” Dr. Reymond figured as a party principal along with her husband, Mike Hulefeld, and parents Leon and Terry Reymond.
Approximately 1,800 additional bash-goers were counted, helping to raise the more than $1.3 million that was generated in support of cancer programs at Ochsner.
During the course of the formalities, and while guests were seated for dinner at beautifully embellished tables placed on the Superdome turf, two young women, Bailey Leon and Meghan Schexnayder, were introduced both in a video and in person to the assembly as “true fighters” with their cancer.
As entertainers, the Treme Brass Band, Tanya Boutte, Ronnie Kole (for lilting dinner music), and Jessie’s Girls provided the musical menu, while complimentary valet parking (GOPARK Valet Services), the 2015 Mercedes-Benz Car Raffle, a live auction, the Friend & Company-presented Pick a Package, the Football Grab, and selfie stations and flip books added to the party packaging. Of course, the primary feature was the massive venue that was thematically decorated for an evening of “Moonlight & Miracles.” And munificence.
Ursuline’s ‘La Fete’ Fun
Teamed as La Fete 287 co-chairwomen were Christine Maristany and Paige Brown, who were joined by their husbands, Michael and Jason. Further limelight befell other chairwomen, such as Nicole Williams for the patron party, and, for the auction, Jennifer Galligan and Nikki Scalia with Chuck and David.
More “Fete” luminaries included Ursuline Prioress Sister Mary Holmes, OSU, board Chairman James MacLaren with Gina, former Mayor Moon and Verna Landrieu, Chad and Olivia Ventola, Academy President Karen McNay with Don, Eric and Pattie Jarrell, Terry and Nancy Brennan, Helen and Charles Eshleman, Fran and Joe McManus, Bryan and Donna Brown (representing patron party sponsor First Bank and Trust), Sandra McClain-Cutrera (representing gala sponsor Whitney Bank) and Mary Ann Valentino with daughter Lisette Turpin. Another daughter, Ann Valentino Fuselier, has been hailed as the 2014 Alumna of the Year.
Guests milled about the academy’s 102-year-old interior courtyard, which was beautifully illuminated for the event that included more than 25 participating restaurants; tables covered with arrangements of cream-colored hydrangeas with larkspur and queen’s lace; lighted paper lanterns gracefully dangling from the crepe myrtles; specialty cocktails and the Dads’ Club-sponsored Martini Bar; and two sets of music makers: Joe Simon’s Jazz for the patrons and The Benchwarmers for the gala itself.
Getting off every chair and figurative bench was the party pack that headed to the 100-items silent auction and then, the excitement of the eight live auction offerings. Chief among them — and their purchasers — were a Disney World package, Linda Strohmeyer; an Al Keller-donated fishing trip, Jeff and Peggy Wooten; a Zurich Classic package, the above Galligans; and an Anthony Davis (of the Pelicans) signed and framed jersey, Matt Miller. Nicole Alvarez, director of admissions, served as auctioneer, raising funds for La Fete.
n Moonlight on the River
“Celebrating the Arts” titled the most recent gallivanting that unfolded on the lovely grounds of Magnolia Community Services, in front of the historic Charles J. Bloom Whitehall Plantation building. Large white tents, white lights and linens, and colorful “flower” centerpieces made of tissue-paper created the lovely look. And for another “look,” guests were invited to go upstairs in Whitehall, where they could visit the Special Creations Winter Wondershop, have portraits done by Uncle Wayne Daigrepont, see more of the gala’s abundant artwork, and learn about Magnolia’s partnership with 12 Seasons Catering for the rental of Whitehall.
More than 500 guests milled about the premises, enjoying fine cuisine from generous restaurants; the auction with enticing trips to Sonoma in California and Cashiers in North Carolina; and entertainment by master of ceremonies Mike Weldon, the Wiseguys band, and the Pussyfooters.
Headlining all of the activity were Gala Committee Co-Chairwomen Jeanne Gallo, Marion Eagan and Karen Oertling with David, Lee, and Laurie; Magnolia board President Burgess McCranie; and James and Emily Oertling. Jennifer Hebert and Dr. Sara Fernandez answer respectively to Magnolia’s executive director and medical director. The event was dedicated to the memory of James R. Lamantia, who bequeathed a large portion of his estate to Magnolia. His brother, Daniel, was a resident in the 1950s.
All the while, “Celebrating the Arts” delivered its party promises of “food, fun and festivity” with the added touch of silvery moonlight.