Dancing the night away for a cause

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Dancing the night away for a cause

The American Women’s Club’s (AWC) holiday charity gala dinner might have begun with a quiet round of martinis and Champagne, but as the night progressed, revelers ended up forming a conga line on the dance floor to celebrate the evening’s success.
Hosted by George Snyder, senior vice president of safety and security at Korean Air, and Cheri Dowdall, an AWC member and manager of the American Women’s Club Thrift Shop, the event, held Saturday night at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, began with the singing of the national anthems of two countries, Korea and the United States, by the Korean-American soprano Cha Seung-hee.
In her keynote speech, Patricia Hill, the wife of the newly appointed U.S. Ambassador to Korea Christopher Hill, addressed the importance of the long tradition of the AWC in supporting local charities, such as Lydia House, Partners for Future Foundation, Rothen School for Boys, the USO’s Warrior Stellar Tour and Habitat for Humanity’s “Women Build” program.
The event maintained a lively spirit throughout the evening. Guests cheered and burst into loud applause each time Kathy Scalabre, the AWC president, called out the names of the organizing committee members and their supporters, to thank them.
Gone were the stress and worries among the party organizers that the event might be less successful in raising money than last year because of the current economic slump in Korea.
Toward the end of the evening, the elated organizing chairwoman, Kelly Connelly, said the club had sold 420 tickets and raised more than 60 million won ($54,000), more than twice the amount the event raised last year.
When asked about a special strategy this year, Mrs. Connelly, who took the position in early October, said, “We didn’t spend money on the decoration [of the Grand Ball Room] and focused on the content of the program.”
Indeed, the vast ballroom did not feature any fancy decor, a typical element in a gala dinner, except for two large screens that showcased major sponsors’ company logos.
The tables were kept simple and elegant with silver showplates, candles and white roses, but since tables bore the names of American states, the subtle aura of a political convention kick-started easy conversation among the guests.
One guest joked: “You have to be a power broker to be seated at ‘Washington D.C.’,” referring to one of the head tables.
Guests of honor who were seated at the head tables included the U.S. Ambassador to Korea, Christopher Hill, and his wife Patricia; the Commander of the United Nations Command and the Republic of Korea and U.S. Combined Forces Command, and Commander of the United States Forces Korea, General Leon Laporte and his wife, Judy Laporte; the mayor of Seoul’s Seocho district, Cho Nam-ho; Danish Ambassador to Korea Lief Donde and his wife, Ingaborg Donde; and New Zealand Ambassador to Korea David Taylor and his wife, Theresa Taylor.
For the live auction, Tami Overby, the executive vice president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea, took over the microphone.
The two highest winning bids were 5.5 million won each for travel deals on United Airlines and Northwest Airlines.
And there were 91 winners of silent raffles, whose prizes included airline tickets to Bangkok, hotel accommodations, mobile phones, luxury handbags and meal tickets at restaurants.
It seemed that the AWC organizing committee’s concept for this year, “Simplicity, Elegance and Class,” pleased participants, even if they didn’t win prizes.
Cho Nam-ho, Seocho’s mayor, who arrived with his own entourage, was particularly pleased with the outcome of the dinner.
Upon leaving, he said, “The investment I made tonight was well worth it, as our Seocho district will have a bright future with our new connection with the American community.”

by Ines Cho
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