For 100 years, the YMCA of the Capital Area has been enhancing the quality of life spiritually, mentally, physically and socially. From one location, the organization has grown to nine branches.
"Honoring Our Past, Celebrating Our Present, Inspiring Our Future" was the theme for the elegant evening celebrating this milestone anniversary March 10 at the Raising Cane's River Center Ballroom. It was a fitting swan song for retiring CEO Bob Jacobs, who has ably led the organization for 20 years. The night also provided an opportunity to meet incoming CEO Christian Engle, who takes over May 1.
WBRZ's Sylvia Weatherspoon served as the night's emcee. The several hundred guests also heard from former staff member Clarke Mitchell and Anthony Richardson. Entertaining everyone during the dinner was vocalist Judy Davis.
Among the celebrants were Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome and husband Marvin; former Mayor Kip Holden and wife Lois; former marketing directors Pat Hanchey and Kathy West; Carole and Charlie Lamar, and CeCe and Alex Lewis, for whose families two of the Y branches are named; Gwen and Leo Hamilton; Sherry McBeath, Ann and Rob Guercio, Debbie and Rickey Heroman and John Daniel, who saved me when he asked if I was headed to The Answer next.
A scheduling mix-up had me running from the Y's celebration to the C.B. Pennington Jr. Conference Center for the Pennington Biomedical Research Foundation's "The Answer" trivia challenge fundraiser. Fortunately I got there in plenty of time to select the table with the best costumes and decorations inspired by this year's theme — "Marvels of Science." Not as easy as it sounds, I promise.
However, I was able to finally make a decision after my third trip around the room. Two of the tables, where everyone dressed as Einstein, kind of canceled each other out — even though Stevie Toups offered me a tempting bribe. Several other tables had the costume part covered but were lacking in the table decorations department. That left the night's winners — the C.B. & Irene Pennington Foundation's Fantastic Avengers, led by Executive Director Lori Bertman, and Wonder Woman (Paula Pennington de la Bretonne) & Super Heroes.
Emcee Todd Henry tried to stump the record crowd with trivia questions, including several about diabetes, a disease that Pennington is on the forefront in researching for a cure. When all the correct answers had been tallied and the elimination games played, JP Morgan Private Bank's "Big Bank Theory" team took home the trophy and bragging rights for the second year in a row.
Carpets & Cocktails
Thursday's fun began with Carpets & Cocktails, hosted by Mary Kay and Kate Brown, Jan Hill and Adele Netterville. They teamed up with rug merchant Togar to raise funds for Our Lady of the Lake Children's Hospital. Oriental, Persian and Turkish rugs of all sizes and ages filled the Drury Inn ballroom. Attendees were also tempted by purses and overnight bags made from rug remnants as well as handmade jewelry. As with the rugs, 10 percent of all sales went to the hospital, which OLOL Foundation officials Kelly Hurtado, Shelton Jones and Melissa Lewis Anderson all said is making great strides. In fact, Kelly said drivers along I-10 to New Orleans will soon start to see steel rising from the site. I can hardly wait!
The carpet ladies aren't the only ones stepping up to make the OLOL Children's Hospital a reality, nor were they the only ones holding a fundraiser that night. OLOL Foundation CEO John Paul Funes and staff member Teddie Hessburg were representing at the Swollfest kickoff party at Lipsey's. Now, I had never heard of Swollfest until earlier that afternoon so I was most curious.
As founder/CEO Dr. Nick Rauber explained, it's a fishing rodeo that over the past 20 years has raised some $1.3 million for organizations like the Muscular Dystrophy Association, American Diabetes Association, Cancer Services, Grand Isle School, Canine Companions for Independence and Sportsman Foundation for Military Families. To celebrate the nonprofit's 20th anniversary, its board decided to team up with OLOL Children's Hospital.
"We realized that we can't help every single child, but we can help all kids no matter their disease by helping make the hospital a reality," said Rauber.
Swollfest takes place June 7-10. To sign up or for additional information, visit swollfest.com.
The week started off with the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge's progressive dinner, "An Evening with Rotary Friends," at the homes of 12 club members March 8. I got to serve as "celebrity guest" at the home of Boo Thomas. Co-hosts were Rotarians Pat Felder and Kris Cangelosi.
My fellow "celebrities" included chef Jay Ducote; radio talk show host Jim Engster; former Mayor Kip Holden; author Leo Honeycutt and wife Jackie; 225 publisher Julio Melara and wife Sherry; Bishop Robert Muench; WBRZ's Chris Nakamoto, Michael Shingleton and Brittany Weiss; WVLA's Chad Sabadie and wife Brooke; and former LSU Tiger Corey Webster.
Hosts included Paul Burns and Trey Roberts, Teri Fontenot and Ronnie Johnson, Dr. Stewart Gordon and Melanie Verges, Renée and Jonathan Greer with Mary Kay Carleton, Susan and Byron Kantrow with Sherry Guarisco, Kris Kirkpatrick and BeBe Facundus, Frank McArthur and Bobbie Carey, Bill O'Quinn and Geri Hobdy, Laura Simpson and Lynn Murphy, Ann Trappey and Monique Spalding, and Doc Zwez and Shawn Folks.
We had a congenial group — Barbara and Bill Auten, John and Sissy Bateman, Jim and Janie Brandt, Wayne Felder, Scott and Karli Johnson, Mary Terrell Joseph, Makesha Judson, Frankie Robertson, Jill Roshto and Charles and Nikki Spencer — and we all had a blast getting to know each other as we dined on a tasty supper from Juban's Restaurant.
I can only hope that the other hosts and their celebrity guests had as much fun as we all did.