Friday, July 20th, 2018

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Currents’ 2014 Black-Tie Awards, as nominated by Benefit Beat reporters

Currents covered more than 300 charity/arts events in 2014, and we are pleased to name the best of the best for the year, per the observations and nominations of our experienced Benefit Beat reporters! While we realize and appreciate how important and special each and every event we cover is to the nonprofits and organizations hosting them and feel privileged to be invited, the following events were selected as being truly exceptional and extraordinary in every way. Congratulations to the legions of party planners and chairmen, volunteers, committees, sponsors, underwriters and others who give so generously of their time, talent and treasure, enhancing the quality of living for so many in Northeast Ohio. – Kelli Cotesworth McLellan

Akron General Health System “Akron General Centennial”

The centennial of the Akron General Health System was a spectacular celebration with 1,000 guests awestruck by the John S. Knight Center transformed with stunning decorations by Neal Leeson Décor Floral. Dinner was superb, Special Request’s music fabulous and the program extraordinarily well executed. AGHS President and CEO Dr. Tim Stover announced the hospital’s partnership with the Cleveland Clinic at the benefit that raised more than $300,000. –KATHRYN RIDDLE

Autism Speaks “Cleveland Chef Gala”

When world-class chefs like Michael Symon and Mario Batalli make dinner for you, there’s no doubt it’s going to be a good night. At Autism Speaks’ Cleveland Chef Gala, held at the Cleveland Museum of Art, it was a full house – 700 guests who helped raise $250,000 for the organization. Many of the city’s favorite chefs were in great form, with at least 35 restaurants represented at the affair. The event featured a silent and live auction and the culinary tasting was followed by a live, on-stage dinner preparation by Chefs Symon and Batali, whose enthusiasm was bountiful. Shari Goldberg, along with her husband, Michael and co-chairs Genevieve Baurer and Bill Carson, and Jim and Jen Sammon, know how to throw a party. – Sali McSherry

Cleveland International Piano Competition “Crescendo”

The inaugural benefit for the prestigious Cleveland International Piano Competition (CIPC) was exceptional. Bravo to chairlady Anne Ames! Held at the Cleveland Museum of Art, the concert featured the four medalists from the 2013 CIPC who come from China, France, Russia and the Ukraine. They were accompanied by Apollo’s Fire Baroque Orchestra, conducted by Jeannette Sorrell. The rising stars played individually, ending with an entertaining piece for eight hands, much to the delight of the audience. The sold-out concert was followed by a cocktail reception in the Ames Family Atrium and a formal seated dinner. This first-time event raised more than $100,000. –CAROLINE R. MERK

Cleveland Zoological Society “Zippity Zoo Doo”

The 41st “Zippity Zoo Doo” clearly demonstrated that things improve with age. This year’s fundraiser was just about perfect from start to finish. Even the sight of an escaped stork perched on a rooftop couldn’t ruffle party planners’ feathers. The traditional live and fund-a-need auctions were scrapped for an innovative “Giving Tree.” Guests making on-the-spot donations were asked to hang a golden ornament on a lighted tree; those giving $500 or more received a small silver animal sculpture. There was an exciting silent auction, with Zoo experiences, like watching a gorilla’s medical check-up, raking in big bucks. — LINDA McMULLEN

Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center “Chefs Unbridled”

“Chefs Unbridled” for Fieldstone Farm Therapeutic Riding Center ran past soggy grass and cloudy skies to an unqualified win. What else could you say about a sell-out party that raised more than $200,000 even before the first guest arrived? Chef entrepreneurs and expectant fathers Scott Kuhn and Chris Hodgson of Driftwood Restaurant Group took the lead in coordinating the cuisine participants. The 600 guests enjoyed offerings from Amp 150, Flour, Urban Farmer, Cowell & Hubbard and more. Food trucks from Hodge Podge and Sweet! The Mobile Cupcakery also had long lines. — LINDA McMULLEN

 Malachi House of Hope “Hope & Light”

Many benefits are spectacular in their size and scope. Hope & Light was distinguished by the elegant evening planned for about 200 guests. Held at the Allen Theatre, the party started in the high-ceilinged rotunda lobby for a social hour and then moved to the theater’s stage, seldom used for events. The top-tier Driftwood catering was complemented by atmospheric live music, and the young professional’s board assisting with raffles.  – ART THOMAS

Mandel Jewish Community Center “Cleveland Jewish FilmFest”

The Cleveland Jewish FilmFest Committee again pulled together a collection of sensitive, thought-provoking, sometimes tearful and sometimes joyful films reflecting the Jewish experience. On Opening Night at Shaker Square Cinemas every seat in three theatres was taken and standby hopefuls filled the lobby. Many in attendance were series pass holders; others came just for the evening’s film, “The Third Half” and to enjoy the ice cream social afterwards, compliments of Mitchell’s. The film itself, a story of the triumph of the human spirit over the Nazi occupation of Macedonia, drew rave reviews. – LINDA McMULLEN

 Playhouse Square “Dazzle the District”

Not only was it one of the most spectacular parties of the year, Dazzle the District will still be dazzling for many years to come. The largest outdoor chandelier in the world was lit that night in front of a crowd that made Playhouse Square look like Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Thirteen hundred people came for the indoor portion of the evening with cocktails in the State lobby and dinner on the State stage and in the Palace Theatre. Entertainment abounded with everything from the Trash Talkers (drummers) to the Singing Angels. An astounding $900,000 was raised to support education and community outreach. Chairmen were Terry Adelman, Marcia Floyd, Sally Henkel, Deborah Hermann, Mary Lynn Laughlin, Ellen Stirn Mavec, Donna Kelly Rego, Diann Scaravilli, Manisha Sethi, Lauren Spilman, K.K. Sullivan and Molly Walsh.—MARTHA TOWNS

 Playhouse Square

Alphorns, played by the Alphorn Gruezie, set the tone for Prost!, the simply fabulous benefit for Playhouse Square’s sensory-friendly performances for special needs children. Karen Conley and Debra Wert were chairmen of the party at the new Hofbrauhaus Cleveland where authenticity reigned from the food and libations to the music especially by the Chardon Polka Band, all to the delight of the more than 535 guests. It was a fun-filled, festive night, netting more than $180,000. – KATHRYN RIDDLE

Prayers from Maria – Children’s Glioma Cancer Foundation Sunflower Soiree”

Sunflower Soiree took place at Sunset Point in Rocky River. The sheer beauty of the setting is awesome. Even more awesome is that this event was born of tragedy, and is doing so much good. Ed and Megan McNamara lost their seven-year-old daughter to a brain tumor called a glioma. Frustrated by a lack of research into this rare and fatal form of pediatric cancer, they formed Prayers from Maria – Children’s Glioma Cancer Foundation. They have awarded close to $500,000 in research grants, which have already yielded results. Christy Kaprosy was the return chair of the 2014 Soiree that raised around $200,000. – CAROLINE R. Scott Hamilton CARES Initiative

“An Evening With Scott Hamilton & Friends”

For 15 years, Scott Hamilton and Maria Miller have been collaborating on this extraordinary event and successful fundraiser. The cause is the Scott Hamilton CARES (Cancer Alliance for Research, Education and Survivorship) Initiative at the Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute, founded by Mr. Hamilton after his successfully treatment for cancer there. In honor of the 15th anniversary, the ice-skating show at the Q featured 15 world-class skaters performing to the music of Grammy-award winning singer and songwriter, Michael Bolton. After the sold-out show, 700 guests proceeded to the Renaissance Hotel for a black-tie gala featuring a wonderful dinner, music and dancing. Last year, the two-some raised $1.2 million to support ongoing research. – CAROLINE R. MERK

Susan G. Komen NE Ohio “Pinktacular”

From the spectacular decor and delectable food to the guests’ unique spin on the “pink” attire required, the annual Susan G. Komen Northeast Ohio 2014 Pinktacular Gala was unique. The Country Club was the perfect back drop for this event at which tables skirted in pink tulle, uniquely decorated food stations and guests with splashes of or full pink ensembles brought forth a magical touch. The night was a feast for the eyes, as “pink” took the forefront and was presented in fabulous style. More than 250 guests took part, raising much-needed funds in support of Komen’s local grant program as well as national breast cancer research. Adding a fun twist to the event was a caricature artist and a photo booth. Guests danced the night away to music by Pop Fiction and By Request. – SUE REID

 Western Reserve Historical Society “Euclid Beach Park Grand Carousel Opening”

To witness the unveiling of the Euclid Beach Park Grand Carousel in all its glory was a once-in-a-lifetime chance for more than 450 guests at the WRHS benefit. Years in the planning and ultimate installation of the Carousel in its specially-designed glass pavilion is credit to the dedication and perseverance of many people, notably honorary chairmen Terry Kovel, John Frato, Raymond Rackley and Dudley Humphrey. Event chairmen Heidi Arnold, Grosvie Cooley and Betsy Humphrey planned the perfect amusement park themed-party, with food by Marigold Catering and music by the Cleveland Pops Orchestra. – KATHRYN RIDDLE

 Western Reserve Junior Service League “Candlelight Charity Ball”

Candlelight Charity Ball was a perfect party, integrating its thematic purple color in everything from souvenir programs, floral arrangements by A.H. Christiansons, silent auction displays and especially in the amethyst jewelry donated and designed by W. Brown Custom Jewelry. Colleen Bergman, Marlene Castilyn and Kathy Vaci were co-chairmen of the festive evening at the Kirtland Country Club where some 160 guests enjoyed music by the Madison Chorale, guitarist Nick Blasius and Dennis Samson and the Nightbreeze Band. The WRJSL has funded grants to Lake, Geauga and Ashtabula County nonprofits with over $1 million in contributions since 1962. – KATHRYN RIDDLE

YMCA of Greater Cleveland “160th Anniversary Gala”

The YMCA of Greater Cleveland celebrated its 160th-year legacy with an announcement about an exciting future. The more than 400 guests in attendance at a black tie gala at the Westin Cleveland Downtown were treated to a glimpse of a new downtown YMCA. Proceeds from the party will go directly toward its construction in the Galleria at Erieview, at E. Ninth St. and Lakeside Ave. Funds raised at the gala exceeded $100,000. Because of a generous gift from the Parker Hannifin Foundation, the downtown YMCA will be officially known as the Parker Hannifin Downtown YMCA. — CYNTHIA SCHUSTER EAKIN


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