A brace of bashes glorified a recent Saturday night when, concurrently, the Children of St. Michael Special School welcomed friends and family to the Blue Rose Ball in the Hilton New Orleans Riverside, and “Dancing with the Stars: the Good Shepherd Way” at the Marriott New Orleans benefited The Good Shepherd School. In both cases, education and nurturing fused with fun. Funds, too!
- Blue Roses
Mr. and Mrs. Michael Rodrigue, Lori and Mike, chaired the St. Michael Special School fundraiser, the Blue Rose Ball, which has the well-deserved renown of being one of the most “special” galas in the city. The school provides a “quality Catholic education to children with major learning disabilities” and emphasizes functional academics and living skills that can foster independence. The annual fundraiser supplements the Scholarship Fund and the general budget. Tuition covers a little less than 50 percent of the per-capita cost for each student/client, who number 210.
The ball also has the renown of being one of the most beautiful galas in the city, always delighting with its decorative thrust. Mardi Gras Productions purveyed the visual feast that included two fountains and greenery embellishing the dance floor; a wooden arbor with vines and lanterns; and a garden and gazebo backdrop. Around the ballroom was the blue rose symbol, which, because of its rarity and uniqueness in nature, stands for the special aspect of each child at the school.
Centering each table were white glass vases containing hydrangeas and hot-pink roses. Candelabra added further loveliness and luminosity.
When guests sat to sup, they enjoyed the culinary care of chef David Woodward and a menu that began with corn and crab chowder, gourmet greens in cucumber wraps, tenderloin of beef, and — yummy! — flourless chocolate cake.
Additional features were the emceeing of Mark Romig; the invocation by Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond’s invocation, who asked the St. Michael faculty and staff to stand and be recognized “for their role in providing for God’s Blues Roses”; the chance to win a collage painting of St. Louis Cathedral (which had Jerry Muhs as the winner) done by Vocational Training students; and the raffle. Blue-stemmed martini glasses with blinking ice cubes and names of students/clients — and decorated with the help of SMSS students — were among the raffle’s choice attractions. So was the Aucoin Hart contribution of amethyst and diamond David Yurman earrings, which produced Julie Jardine, a guest of Magnolia Foundation, as the winner.
A flurry of excitement arose when the name of Terry Chamberlain was revealed as the winner of the Grand Prize. Donated by Co-Chairman Mike Rodrigue and his family, it was a private party for 30 people at Acme Oyster House’s Reef Room in the French Quarter.
Not only will their guests enjoy the bivalve bonhomie, but many will also be talking up — and attending — the Chefs’ Charity for Children that is presented annually by SMSS. The 2015 date will be announced soon.
In addition to thanks to the Rodrigues for their chairmanship and donation, compliments tapped Lori, who made rounds in a gown by La Petite Robe di Chiara Boni. Cobalt in color, it was off the shoulder with a slit neckline.
Additional notables were Superintendent of Catholic Schools Dr. Jan D. Lancaster, Paul and Michelle Reuter, Cindy Paulin, and Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand and spouse Shawn. Sheriff Normand has been named the University of New Orleans 2014 Homer L. Hitt Distinguished Alumnus of the Year and will be honored as such on Nov. 6 in City Park’s Arbor Room at Popp Fountain.
Also within the Blue Rose brigade of 720, which included some sponsors, supporters, and parents, were SMSS board President Billy Steen with Kathleen, Sandra McClain-Cutrera and husband James Cutrera, Randy and DeeDee King, Risa Hall, Judge and Mrs. John Shea, Cindy and George Rucker, Sherri (president of the school’s new Parent-Teacher Cooperative Club) and Perry Peppo, retired Navy Capt. John and Peggy White (who dined with the archbishop), James and Patsy Hotard, John Rau, Patrick Tesson, Mary Jane and John Becker, Wanda “Pie” Caire, Emeril Lagasse Foundation President Brian and Nicole Kish, Antonia and Ian Keller, Monique Ricci, Jeune Ural, Michael Rodrigue Jr., Tony Rodrigue, John Stassi of the Magnolia Foundation, Debbie Robin, Rich Eason, SMSS Ladies Guild President Eileen Schulin, and school Principal Susan Munster.
During and after dinner, the dance floor beckoned with its own deserts. Spice was the band and they kept everything sound-savory until the last number.
- Sidereal Stepping
The Mirrored and Gold Star Patron Party for the top donors launched “Dancing with the Stars: The Good Shepherd Way” that continued with a cocktail social and a dinner buffet before the dancing competition. Fox 8 news anchors Nancy Parker and John Snell were the emcees and 10 Shimmering Stars, a top donor category, counted several businesses, firms and foundations, and, as individual donors, Tom and Barbara Diano, William “Billy” and Anne Goliwas (a former chaircouple of the above Blue Rose Ball), Sheriff Marlin and Renee Gusman, Mr. and Mrs. Bobby Major, Steve and Monica Montagnet, and Michael “Mike” and Carmie Winters.
As for the dancers, the roster limelighted pairs Mi Mi Montagnet Bankston and Brett Patron; Ron Bienvenu and Sultana Bienvenu; Shelley Brown and Ben Tarantino; Kristi Coleman and Brother Larry Huck, S.J.; Brother William J. Dardis, S.J., and Emily Culotta; Cristina Fowler and Norman Robinson; Helena Moreno and Harold Prestenburg; Nicole Smith and Rockin’ Dopsie; and Tamica Lee and Barry Smith. The nine teams vied for the coveted Mirror Ball trophy with the Grand Champions coming in as the couple who received the greatest number of paid votes.
Winning, as Grand Champions, were state Rep. Helena Moreno and Intrepid Stone CEO Harold Prestenburg, and, as “Fan Favorites,” Good Shepherd School President Brother Huck and Fox 8 News reporter Kristi Coleman. They issued thanks, respectively to choreographers Kate DeVille and Michelle Sciavicco of the Martha Mayer School of Dance.
More fine footwork came from the 610 Stompers, who kicked off the evening with a performance.
Food and drink welcomed the “Dancing” dozens. Cottage Catering prepared and displayed the dinner buffet, while Good Shepherd School neighbor Dee’s Coffee purveyed tasty “cups of joe.” Gratitude to headlining sponsors Marriott New Orleans (the hosting hotel) and Whitney occurred throughout the event. More thanks touched Mirrored Stars donors Ronnie and Gwen Briggs, Louie Roussel III and Sally, and Johnson Rice & Company LLC; and Gold Stars the David and Wayne Ducote families, Baptist Community Ministries, and Jack’s Electric Service Inc. All in support of GSS, which, in the Jesuit tradition and as part of the vision of the late Rev. Harry Tompson, S.J., provides an excellent, benefactor-paid education to at-risk city children. The K-7th grade program of 220 school days has a faith-based, character-oriented curriculum.
Within the party pack were the above Briggses, Chris Meeks with spouse Helena Moreno, John and Donna Cummings, Gary and Caroline Lorio, George Fowler with the above Cristina, the Lloyd Hucks, Tom and Maureen Fischer, Mahlon and Karen Sanford, Lesley and Ben Tarantino, and Libby and Bruce Hoefer.
The genesis of the event — which hailed as 2014 committee members the above-mentioned Mmes. Diano, Tarantino and Winters, as well as Victoria Baudier, Caitlin Byars, Alison Brown James, Shirley Malbrough, Jan Mickan, Cassie Preston, Jamie Roy, Dina Skinner, and Ana Tumminello — was inspired by Psalm 150:4. It tells us to “Give praise with tambourines and dance.”
- Around and About
At a recent concert of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra in the Mahalia Jackson Theater, the Carlos Miguel Prieto-conducted program included works by John Adams (born in 1947) and the late Jean Sibelius and Edward Elgar. Twenty-four-year-old violinist Benjamin Beilman starred as the violinist for the Sibelius concerto, garnering a standing ovation. Thanks for support, as noted in the printed program, went to Hugo and Barbara Wedemeyer (the concert) and to Julie Breitmeyer (Mr. Beilman).
Among those noted, along with the Wedemeyers and Mrs. Breitmeyer, were Adelaide Wisdom Benjamin, Scott and Janet Howard, Courtney-Anne Sarpy, Carlo and Rosemonde Capomazza di Campolattaro, Mary and Joseph Biundo, Paul and Betsy Fabry, Colette and Joe Friend, Marilyn Dittmann (chairwomen of the recent LPO ball) and Paul Leaman, Sharon Litwin, Mignon Faget, Stephen and Nancy Hales, Max Nathan Jr. and Fran Swan, Virginia Roddy, and the just-back-from-France Walda and Sydney Besthoff.