Saturday, August 18th, 2018

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Currents presents its annual Black-Tie Awards for best benefits of 2017


By Currents Benefit Beat Reporters


It’s an annual Currents tradition to ask our busy Benefit Beat reporters to nominate the best-of-the-best benefits from among the many special events they covered in the previous year.

While it’s always a difficult task for them to limit their nominations to only those events that stood out in their minds as extraordinary and extra-special in every way, what follows is the list of events from 2017 which are recognized as our Black-Tie Award winners. Congratulations to the many people involved in planning them to perfection!


Angie’s Institute at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital and Who Cares Teen Cancer America, “Rockin’ Summer Soiree”

The pulsating chords and rousing chorus usually rock packed arenas. And yet, stripped down to an acoustic guitar accompaniment under a wind-rattled tent, legendary Roger Daltrey of “The Who” still had the Shoreby Club crowd of 300 on their feet with the opening words: “Ever since I was a young boy, I’ve played the silver ball…”

The choice of “Pinball Wizard” enhanced the focus of the Rockin’ Summer Soiree, a benefit to support Angie’s Institute at UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital and Who Cares Teen Cancer America, founded by Daltrey and bandmate Peter Townshend as an offshoot of their British charity. Yes, the organizations support research into the causes –  and ultimately finding cures – for the adolescent and young adult cancers, often the rarest and most aggressive forms of the disease. But the groups also provide age-appropriate activities and entertainment, including electronic games for teens undergoing treatment. ~ Peggy Turbett

Breakthrough Schools, “Breakthrough Bash”


There’s patronage, and then there’s heart. Getting 1,000 people to attend a special event is easy compared to getting 1,000 people to talk about the topic at hand, Breakthrough Schools, like it’s their favorite child. At the show-stopping Downtown Hilton, a stadium-sized venue, every guest – every one – was talking about the schools, the mission, their passion for its work, and their admiration for the students who appeared on stage to validate what 1,000 hearts were feeling: everyone deserves a chance at a quality education. Breakthrough Schools is the pathway for many to strive for success in life. ~ Rita Kueber


Cleveland Council on World Affairs, “Global Impact Award honoring Condoleezza Rice”

Meeting your hero is its own magic, whether you are 10-year-old Dixon Hill handing a microphone to Condoleezza Rice, or the 66th U.S. Secretary of State receiving a personalized football jersey from none other than Jim Brown. So the Bank of America auditorium was supercharged when the Cleveland Council on World Affairs awarded its 2017 Global Impact Award to Dr. Condoleezza Rice for her distinguished service in international affairs. ~ Peggy Turbett

Cleveland International Piano Competition, “Encore!”

Your bestie is a rock star. In the world of the Cleveland International Piano Competition, that’s entirely possible. Dozens of aspiring world-renowned musicians descend on Cleveland every two years to compete, and most stay with local hosts, making the entire endeavor one large, extended musical family. Encore celebrates that with former medalists returning to play, and see their host families, even as they have gone on to earn more accolades and fame. The entire event is a big group hug, as former competitors play together in twos and fours, even eight at a time, and guests simply listened in astonished appreciation. ~ Rita Kueber


Cleveland Orchestra, “Centennial Celebration”

The Cleveland Orchestra, celebrating its 100th year, has entertained, challenged and soothed us through two World Wars, and 18 presidents. So venerable doesn’t begin to describe this extraordinary event, with a cocktail party for 500+, a concert for 1,500, and a sit-down dinner for 550 served on four floors of the historic Severance Hall. For a true community celebration, 1,000 free tickets were given away, so the concert hall was filled to the brim for the event. The logistics and timing are staggering, yet the Orchestra’s committee pulled it off brilliantly. Can’t wait for the 101st! ~ Rita Kueber


Cleveland Play House, “Grand Illusion”

Under a fairy muse’s gaze and a wizard’s mystical glow, 360 patrons began a magical odyssey through the Allen Theatre to celebrate the Cleveland Play House. Picking up name tags and sushi rolls in the tangerine-draped Hall of Mirrors, they ventured to the Reinberger Rotunda, where the fantasy created by event designer Christopher Kascsak unfolded through the streamers of Pick-Up-Stix gents on stilts. There the Inlet Dance Theatre’s Mermaid Queen held ethereal court with a gilded sea lion and Tinkerbell-ish lady in waiting, dancing to the tunes of the Bluewater Kings Band. – Peggy Turbett

Cleveland Public Theatre, “Pandemonium 2017: Unleashed”

Like Alice through the looking glass, patrons stepped from the familiar Gordon Square curb into the fantastical realm of Pandemonium 2017, an annual celebration of the creative energy that fuels Greater Cleveland. The doors of the repurposed Cleveland Public Theatre’s complex opened into a kaleidoscope of “Unleashed” improvisation, dance, cabaret, theater, draping visual art and roaming giant heads.

Festivities filled 22 stages, into the corners and up the staircases, spilling out into tents of the open lot under a late summer sky.  Joe Cimperman, president, Global Cleveland, and Raymond Bobgan, CPT executive artistic director, welcomed the 1,200 attendees, artists and volunteers. Then members of the Student Theater Enrichment Program, an art-based job training program, took to the stage for an emphatic performance of “And Yet We Shine,” the first of myriad artistic expressions of the evening, including the premiere of 50 original works. ~ Peggy Turbett

Cleveland Restoration Society, “Shining a Light on Sacred Landmarks”

Trinity Cathedral served as the site and glowing centerpiece for Cleveland Restoration Society’s (CRS) “Shining a Light on Sacred Landmarks” at which 200 guests helped to raise more than $40,000 to support CRS’s efforts. Festivities included a wine tasting and Cleveland Whiskey tasting, tours of the historic Cathedral and dinner with music by cathedral organist Nicole Keller. The Rev. Dr. James P. Quincy III gave the blessing prior to the meal. After dinner, entertainment was provided by the Theron Brown Jazz Trio.

The CRS formed its Sacred Landmarks Program in 1995 as an interdenominational initiative to assist congregations with the stewardship of their properties. Religious properties have unique challenges with physical deterioration, deferred maintenance, changing congregations and limited financial resources. Through a committee of architects and building experts, the society provided technical assistance on matters such as masonry restoration, specialty roof and gutter systems, stained-glass windows and energy efficiency. The society has assisted more than 400 area congregations. ~ Cynthia Schuster Eakin


Dunham Tavern Museum, “Summer Soiree at the Barn”

Dunham Tavern Museum’s “Summer Soiree at the Barn” was a celebration of Cleveland’s heritage.

More than 200 guests attended the event, which raised about $40,000 to advance the museum’s Greenspace Plan. Several years ago, Dunham Tavern Museum was able to acquire a parcel of land to the west of the Euclid Corridor. Museum members are striving to create a gathering place where people can socialize, walk through the beautiful gardens and unique trails, and learn about the museum and the city’s past. They also plan to create an outdoor amphitheater where performances can be held at the central park in Midtown.

Dunham Tavern Museum has honored Fred Geis for his contribution of urban revitalization and development and Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams for his three decades of service to the city. An inaugural concert in the park featured the Prayer Warriors. After the concert, a silent auction was held in the barn behind the museum. A sit-down dinner was prepared by Grumpy’s Catering. ~ Cynthia Schuster Eakin


Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center, “Chefs Unbridled”


Like a mirage, Chefs Unbridled rises from an empty field to offer a summer evening of fun and feasting with a laid-back vibe. Spread out under an enormous tent, the annual foodie fest and outdoor party supports the therapeutic equine programs at Fieldstone Farm, which benefit 1,300 clients annually, young and old, with an emphasis this year on the veterans’ therapies. From the irresistible greeters, rescue ponies Sonny and Willy, to the delectable, gourmet small plates offered by dozens of top-rated local chefs, plus food trucks, bourbon tasting, desserts (donut truck!), and carriage rides, this is a “happening” to look forward to every year. ~ Rita Kueber


GroundWorks Dance Theater, “It Takes Two”

Network television took 10 weeks of fast footwork to name this season’s winners of “Dancing with the Stars.” GroundWorks Dance Theater needed just one evening and seven spectacular performances to crown its champions: Community lay leader Enid Rosenberg and her GroundWorks dance partner, David Shimotakahara, interpreted T. Bone Walker’s “Blues Rock.”  Their steamy take on the blues topped other smashing routines by Cleveland celebrity dancers. The show-stopping finale had Bob O’Brien of Forest City Realty Trust dancing with Felise Bagley to Donna Summer’s disco anthem “Last Dance.” ~ Peggy Turbett


Hopewell, “Summer Solstice”

Preparation and “boots on the ground” work make for a terrific benefit in a rustic, yet elegant setting, and that’s what Hopewell produced. A paddock was the reception area, an open barn the hall, and a massive tent the formal dining room (plus the back barn a captivating Gentleman’s retreat). Hopewell, a rare entity in this country – a working farm to aid those with mental illness – created a chic, happening event in a down-to-earth setting. Honoring the founder, hearing a parent’s grateful success story, plus a marvelous menu made for an exceptional event. ~ Rita Kueber



Partnership for Families, “Together We Make a Family: The Stars as Align”

Beyond the stunning décor of this summer soiree, which featured an elegant dinner and dancing presented at the Country Club, it was the emphasis on family that made “Together We Make a Family: The Stars Align” stand out among benefits in 2017.

The benefit for University Hospitals garnered a record of more than $500,000 for Partnership, which aims at giving couples and individuals a chance to have a healthy family through infertility treatments.

The evening was highlighted by heartfelt, poignant presentations from those who benefited from Partnership, as well as from Honorary Chair Matthew P. Figgie who stated he was both humbled and honored to share in the evening and to help give the gift of families to couples who would otherwise not experience it.

The benefit was in honor of Mr. Figgie’s mother, Nancy F. Figgie. “Nothing was more important to my mom than family,” Mr. Figgie said in tribute. ~ Sue Reid

University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center, “Five Star Sensation”

Truffle roe bursting mushroomy delight over velvety onion shooters by Chef Hubert Keller of Las Vegas, Seattle’s Chef Sam Choy offering Okinawa purple sweet potato salad with garlic buttered shrimp, even chévre cheesecake with sweet pea mint mousse by Cleveland’s own pastry master Britt-Marie Culey of Coquette Patisserie…If the tent turrets at Tri-C East resembled the mile-high Denver airport, the culinary heights at the 2017 Five Star Sensation soared way into the stratosphere. ~ Peggy Turbett

Verb Ballets, “Cheers to 30 Years!”

Verb Ballets, Cleveland’s longest running contemporary ballet company, celebrated its 30th birthday with a party that lit up the historic Calfee Building, which is home to the law firm Calfee, Halter & Griswold LLP.

Guests danced the night away and helped to raise about $40,000 to support the ballet troupe.       The evening began with hors d’oeuvres and cocktails on the balcony, followed by a special Verb Ballets performance and sit-down dinner in the grand lobby catered by Trifles Catering.

Under the direction of Artistic Director Dr. Margaret Carlson and Associate Director Richard Dickinson, the ballet company cultivates dance appreciation through community dance classes, school residencies, senior outreach, library programs, master classes and college course partnerships. Verb Ballets has been named one of “Five Great Tiny Troupes in America” by “Dance Magazine.” ~ Cynthia Schuster Eakin


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