Last year I was amazed at the lengths folks will go to help raise money to provide free or low-cost medical care for needy children at Children's Hospital.
And already this season that great sense of amazement is repeating itself.
On Wednesday I attended a benefit party at the Tantallon Country Club arranged by Harry J. Ginter Associates, an insurance company. Harry and his wife Rose have held small parties to raise free care funds for the hospital the last three years, but this season they outdid themselves.
"We felt that if we could put together this type of event in our community, then others might follow suit," Harry explained. "It's people working for people."
The first hurdle was cleared when Rick Washco, manager of Tantallon Country Club, agreed to the use of the club's main ballroom and donated both the space and the manpower to host a big party. Then came the problem of getting the kind of entertainment that would draw a good crowd.
Somehow Harry convinced Mark Russell, the nation's premier political satirist, to lead the entertainment bill. Mark arrived at Tantallon with a fresh supply of quips directed at the White House's future occupants, and took a few last swipes at the departing Georgians, delighting everyone.
To play during the remaining time, Harry and Rose assembled an impressive array of musical talent. First to perform were the Strolling Banjoes, a duet composed of George Johnson and Charlie Labarbera. Then came the Strolling Strings Associates, an accordian and violin team, courtesy of Lou and Rose Marie Coppola.
Filling out the musical diversion was the Tony Matarrese Co., a band conducted by a former director of music at the White House, Tony Matarrese. The country club got a free bonus earlier in the day when Tony tuned the house piano before the guests arrived.
In the moments when no music could be heard, the hundreds of guests feated on a gourmet selection of fine foods and hors d'oeuvres provided gratis by Safeway Stores Inc. and their director of development, Larry Johnson. Tantallon Country Club's chef Tom Jones prepared the feast.
Highly commended were the floral table arrangements that were created for the occasion by Helen Sharper of Sharper's Florist Shop.
One hilarious moment in the evening's celebrations came when one of the several Gaslight Girls, who came down from Washington's 16th St. nw Gaslight Club to add a touch of class, danced a Charleston with Father Brian, a Franciscan friar. Later Father Brian acted as Santa Claus and raffled off ten gifts provided by area businesses. The contributors were: Mills Lumber Co. ($25 certificate), Fort Washington Beverages Inc. (case of German wine), Forest Plaza Liquor (case of champagne), Livingston Square Liquors (holiday liquor bouquet), Friendly Travel Inc. ($100 certificate), Wm. E. Miller Furniture ($100 certificate), Jay Marlowe Jewelers ($25 certificate), the Tantallon Golf Shop ($25 certificate), McDonald's ($50 certificate), and the Chang II Restaurant (dinner for four.)
Tickets and programs were yet another problem, but the Ginters found a kind ear in Gil Giordano, chairman of United Bank & Trust, and his president, Charles Spicknel. UB&T donated the cost of printing these items, and also handled some sales.
To keep the performers in an entertaining mood, Leo Mead of Mead's Inc., contributed backstage assistance and refreshments. On-site photography was provided by Cosmopolitan Photo Service.
The setting was beautiful, the entertainment superb, and the happiness felt by helping the hospital continue to provide free medical care for needy children combined to make Wednesday a memorable evening. The amount raised could not be calculated before my deadline, but it will be in excess of $4,000.
In a final show of concern, Harry and Rose had the tickets inserted into envelopes addressed to their insurance firm, so that additional contributions to the hospital could be easily routed through this column. It was just the kind of touch that helped make the Ginter's affair a sure-success before it even started.
"There's youngsters out there who can change the world," Harry commented at the party. "All we have to do is give them a chance."