‘Possible’ Party

For the 12th year, New Orleans Medical Mission Services held its Mission Possible Gala to raise money for international health care. A chockablock evening, the 2014 gala at Generations Hall commenced with an hour-long patron party before the main merriment. Cocktails, dining, silent and live auctions, and entertainment by The Yat Pack filled the fundraiser bill.

Among the “MP” mastheaders were gala Chairwomen Kristie McConnell and Alice Dolese; auctioneers Rick Crozier, Dan Milham and Jim Ray; and Archbishop Gregory Aymond. Add to that roster, Monsignor Andrew Taormina, Joseph “Joe” Canizaro, former state Sen. Fritz and Barbara Windhorst, Ralph Senner, Herman and America Gacharna, Eric and Lisa Tanzberger, David and Karen Richards, Dieter and Julie Hugel, out-of-towners Kathryn and Elise Tanzberger and the Patrick Johnsons, and Drs. Warren Bourgeois and Usha Ramadhyani, R. Daniel Jacob, Thomas Kennedy and Robert Normand. The latter two were with their wives, Mary Kennedy and Sharon Normand.

During the patrons’ hobnobbing, Archbishop Aymond gave the invocation before recognizing the NOMMS founders, the above Drs. Jacob, Kennedy and Normand, and the chaplain, Monsignor Taormina. Then came the awards. Dr. Kennedy hailed Michael Atwater and Tommy Coon as Volunteers of the Year awardees for their many and extensive volunteer activities, and Entergy representative Marcus Brown for the company’s continuous support. It was tapped as the Outstanding Corporate Sponsor.

As the 500 guests milled about, they turned an attentive eye to a series of flags: American, State of Louisiana, NOMMS and those of Ecuador, Panama, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Haiti and Kenya, the countries that NOMMS serves. Displayed, too, were the poster-size pictures of smiling patients who’ve received major surgeries, treatment, and eye glasses during missions by NOMMS.

As for the appetite, Marie Hasney of Fleur de Lis New Orleans Cuisine/The Catering Connection coordinated delicious fare. Fleur de Lis provided, deep-fried turkey, beef brisket, grilled vegetables, and other specialty treats, while a series of restaurants and caterers (as well as Roman Candy) added further taste treats.

Thrills of the bidding kind were the domain of the live auction, which offered trips to resorts in Honduras and the Bahamas, along with a 10-day stay at a private residence in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Art and jewelry lured even more generosity from the “MP” posse. The silent portion claimed more than 300 attractions set up on four separate tables.

All the while, The Yat Pack showed where it was “at” musically, thanks to an eight-piece band with vocals playing hits from five decades.

Musical Momentum

For the 4th year, the annual St. Jude Benefit, dubbed The Sounds of New Orleans, packed The Mahalia Jackson Theater of Performing Arts. Once again, Gayle and Tom Benson were billed as the honorary chaircouple. Slated as performers were Allen Toussaint, Paul Sanchez, Michael Cervaris, John Boutte, Shamarr Allen, Mike “Soulman Baptiste & Mystecs, and Clark Knighten and the 4 x 4 Band, featuring Erica Falls. To keep everything in motion, Karen Swensen and Emile Gauchet stepped forward as masters of ceremonies.

On the eve of the gala concert, more than 100 people assembled for the patron party at the nearby Historic Basin Street Station, where the Clark Knighten music makers regaled the crowd and chefs Derrick Sayles and Glenn Turner fed the flock. Mini crawfish pies, gumbo, shrimp and eggplant dressing, turkey, pork and an assortment of salads and desserts filled the plates.

As guests entered, they were welcomed by Ed Perkins (joined by Julie Robinson), founder and chairman of The Sounds of New Orleans; the Rev. Anthony Rigoli, OMI, pastor of Our Lady of Guadeloupe Church; and Sister Beth Mouch, M.S.C., director of St. Jude Community Center.

Mingling, too, were Eric Arrant and Joe Cull, Cindy Gauchet with the above emcee Emile, Cheryl and Herbert Montalbano, Michie and Tom Bissell, Nakita and Tommie Vassel, Jill and Michael Floyd, and Sisters Joyce Hanks, Clarita Bourque, and Judy Gomila. And, Helena and Rich Boyer, Deborah Lavender and Beverley Castillo, Judith Plauche and Harold Patin, Carol Jacob and Walter Evans, Elizabeth Nice and Dan Civello, Kathy Sebastian and Karen Tipton, Darlene Adams and Stephen Klein, and dozens more.

They headed back to the area the next night for “Sounds,” which was described by a frequent concert-goer as “spectacular.” More than 15 standing ovations attested to that musical fact.

Leadership and Legacy

The Arthur Roger Gallery on Julia Street was the site for the night when the Norman C. Francis Leadership Institute held a celebratory reception. Twenty-five Fellows were recognized: Jason G. Burns Sr., Michael J. Busada, Ronald M. Carrere Jr., Amy Collins, Jaimme Angelle Collins, Lucas Diaz, Jay Christopher Dumas, Monica Edwards, Daniel Nathan Forman, Dr. Wendy A. Gaudin, Michael G. Griffin, Dr. Yu Jiang, Jacob Landry, Dr. Elizabeth A. Marcell, Nolan A. Marshall III, Todd O. McDonald, Brooke Minto, Minh Thanh Nguyen, Dana Peterson, Joe M. Ricks Jr., Jade Brown-Russell, Melissa Sawyer, Jeffrey Schwartz, Sharonda Williams and City Councilman Jason Williams. They were awarded certificates and custom-designed lapel pins by Adler’s Fine Jewelry.

Taking the floor, Dr. Norman Francis and son Timothy made remarks about the legacy of the institute, which, in connection with Xavier University of Louisiana, was founded in 2012 to prepare professional men and women for civic engagement and social responsibility.

Spotted as well were institute board members state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, Kim Boyle, Norma Jane Sabiston, Marcus Brown, and Kenneth Carter, along with City Councilman Jared Brossett, Jefferson Parish President John Young, Judge Ivan Lemelle, pro tempore Judge Lynn Luker, Judge Karen Wells Roby, Ashley Francis (with the above Tim and their children, Sara and Olivia), Dr. Earl Cash, Laverne Saulny, Betsie Gambel, and gallery owner Arthur Roger.

Stunning Dale Chihuly glass creations displayed in the gallery riveted every eye.