There were many winning moments at the LCFEF 21st annual Spring Gala Saturday night at the elegant Langham hotel in Pasadena.
The theme this year was “A Night at the Races.” Men and women dressed as if they were attending the prestigious Kentucky Derby. Hats of all colors and sizes were worn by many of La Canada’s most philanthropic residents.
Money raised by the La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation supports . Last year, the to help absorb significant cuts in funding from the state. California remains in an equally dire situation this year. At last Tuesday's school board meeting, members voted to cut 18 temporary teachers, but intend to use money raised from the Foundation to reinstate them, so class sizes may remain small. The Foundation is likely to raise more than $1.1 million this year.
In keeping with the theme of this year's gala, there were three horse races throughout the evening. Winning guests were entered into a raffle to win one of three prizes: an Amazon Kindle Fire with a $50 Amazon gift certificate, a $300 gift certificate to Best Buy or a $500 certificate to Target.
Jay Cohen from the Santa Anita Park announced each race by raising his bugle and playing “Call to the Post.”
One of the most memorable events of the evening, was when LCFEF Director Craig Mazin commanded the stage, as couples dined on balsamic-marinated, free-range chicken, seared striped bass, filet of beef and portobello ravioli. He enthusiastically encouraged parents to pledge as much as $5,000 for new textbooks for all La Cañada public schools.
Within fifteen minutes, Mazin raised more than $100,000. The money will replace outdated and torn textbooks for brand new math books in grades K-6; science supplements for grades 7/8; chemistry and social studies textbooks for grades 9-12.
Tech-savvy parents enjoyed playing with the new BidPal hand-held devices throughout the evening. They bid on some steller silent auction items that included tickets to an upcoming Lakers game at the Staples Center, and two VIP tickets to attend a taping of the Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Couples nibbled on crème brulee, tiramisu, chocolate caramel and fruit tarts during the bidding for live auction items. One happy couple won a four-night stay at the Grand Wailea Resort in Maui. Another won three-days and two-nights at the picturesque Terannea Resort. The bids for a walk-on role on a popular television show and one-of-a-kind wine dinner with 10 friends at DISH, reached beyond their suggested value.
Before the live band Jukebox rocked the stage, the winner of a gorgeous new Fiat 500, Simon Cheng, was announced. He excitedly sprinted up to the stage, as his lovely wife Arlene stood near me beaming with joy. When I asked Cheng how many raffle tickets he purchased, trying to be the lucky winner, he proudly told me 26.
Couples danced to the sounds of The Black Eyed Peas, KC and the Sunshine Band and Wild Cherry, before standing in line to pay for their winnings and drive back to La Canada.
I don’t yet have the final tally of how much money was raised last night, but if the smiles on everyone’s face who put this event together is a telling sign, the public schools in La Cañada Flintridge will continue to excel in our community, despite upcoming budget cutbacks.