7:00 pm and the team is dolled up and raring to go. The air is filled with anticipation as we await what promises to be another magical evening of fundraising at the Mandarin Oriental, Miami; but this is not the usual fundraiser, this is the big one, Oscar Night for our team. One by one guests begin to arrive; first a slow trickle, then a full swarm of beautiful people in their most resplendent finery. The ladies air kiss and sip on cocktails. They survey the room that has been filled with luxury items available for purchase to the highest bidder and as if that weren’t enough, adorning the hallway are gorgeous, svelte models on mirrored risers alongside ornate vitrines both dripping with diamonds courtesy of presenting sponsor Harry Winston.
As they enter the ballroom, guests catch the first glimpse of the beautiful space. Black and white cloths with contemporary, graphic prints cover the tables. Atop them, giant bouquets and sprays and pompoms of radiant yellow Callas, Roses, and Orchids to match the giant 70-carat radiant-cut Yellow Diamond Necklace being carefully guarded just a few feet away from the ballroom doors. The lights are dim, DJ Kucha is playing a song with a slow yet thumping beat and we all take our places. It’s showtime.
Everyone is here to support the evening’s honorees, Steve and Aimee Owens; only the team knows there is so much more in store for tonight. In short order, dinner is served and the evening’s chairs Brad and Suzanne Meltzer step up to the podium and recognize our most distinguished guests who then take turns sharing their personal stories about their relationship with Voices For Children. We are excited to reveal our new video that features young children talking about what they want to be when they grow up and people are moved by the sweetness and the call to “Make A Difference” and “Change Their Future.” But soon, someone will take the podium and tell the most important story amongst all those being told and the reason why we are gathered here tonight.
At last, the moment arrives. A young woman appears at the podium and slowly opens a piece of paper. She is gentle, beautiful, and emotional. Fighting back tears, she reads the line that heralds her triumph over some of the most horrific experiences one could imagine. After years of sadness and abuse, and despite what for many would be a life destined to uncertainty, she has been accepted to law school. But what the paper says is not important. What the paper means is that she is free. Free of the fear, the pain, the past and most importantly, free to dream of the future. The room goes silent. What was a chatty and somewhat distracted crowd quickly halts to a dead silence and all eyes are on her. Across the room, you can hear the sighs and sniffles of the emotional crowd, which is now riveted by the shocking details of her story. She is brave to tell it and everyone knows it. “The power of owning your story will propel you to liberation” she says, and the room bursts into loud applause. Everyone leaps to their feet. We know why we are there, and if there was anyone who didn’t know why, now they do.
During the dancing and schmoozing and celebrating, there is giving. Generous support from these beautiful people finds its way to the team. When it is all said and done, we have raised over $700,000 for children like the one who told her story tonight and once again we look ahead to tomorrow and the next story Voices For Children will tell.
Photographs from the event can be viewed online here.