Raintree Children and Family Services hosted it’s annual “Paint the Town Green” gala last week benefitting foster children (as well as children with disabilities) and the families who care for them. Big donors were first treated to a Patron Party at Ruth’s Chris Steak House before joining us in the grand Harrah’s Theatre. We milled around checking out auction items before diving into the long buffet provided through the generosity of local restaurants including Arnaud’s with their refreshing Shrimp Remoulade, GW Fins – who again reprised their super-popular subtly flavored Lobster Dumplings and Bread Pudding from the Royal Sonesta’s Desire Oyster Bar.
The Yat Pack played Rat Pack songs and favorites from Michael Bublé as well as crowd pleaser – Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline. The Silent Auction featured goodies like a Drew Brees-autographed football, paintings by Christopher Morrison-Slave, beautiful jewelry, purses, dining experiences, a big wagon full of beer and so much more. Live Auction items included a Michalopoulos embellished giclée, dinner for 6 at Ruth’s Chris with Hall of Famer and former Saint Rickey Jackson, a pearl and emerald necklace and an amazing Saints “Home and Away Experience” including airfare and 2 nights in Dallas for an away game and seats in the 50 yard line suite with all amenities for the Tampa game in the Dome.
But my favorite Live Auction item was a commissioned painting by Reuben Cheatem. Cheatem set up an easel early in the evening a painted live most of the night. He had used a photo to draft the piece and arrived with much of the portrait of youngsters with popsicles already completed. He said he chose that piece to illustrate his work because it featured children, the people the proceeds of the event would benefit. What he was auctioning was his services as a live painter at your event. I though about how cool it would be to give that to someone as a gift at their party or to feature it as a fun addition to your own party. All it takes is a photo ahead-of-time and you get hours of unique entertainment and a portrait.
Raintree is a nearly-90 year old facility and has serviced thousands and thousands of local children and families. I’ve met some of the foster families who care for children with disabilities and many of the teenage girls who’ve lived at Raintree’s on-site group home, Raintree House. I can say with authority that Raintree can make a major difference in the life of a child. During the gala, they ran a VIDEO that included testimony from one of its college-bound residents as well as a montage of signs held up over many of the girls faces saying what Raintree has given them. They said things like, “Thanks to Raintree, I am my own success story,” “Thanks to Raintree, I am safe,” “Thanks to Raintree, I got to go roller skating for the first time.” I cried. We all cried. And donated.
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