Gala: After 25 years, the Angel Ball continues its mission

Getting a rare moment to relax and chat about the ball's success are George and Melissa Wagner, Debbie Chambers, Beth and Craig Stark, chairs of

Getting a rare moment to relax and chat about the ball's success are George and Melissa Wagner, Debbie Chambers, Beth and Craig Stark, chairs of event.

It’s been 25 years since the first Angel Ball, held in 1984 under a tent at the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club, debuted as a foundation for the school’s funding. So, gathering in support of the Community School of Naples Financial Aid Program, 370 supporters donned their finest and partied the evening away Nov. 7 for a special anniversary of that initial gala.

From Head of School John Zeller to parents, grandparents, school friends, a scattering of faculty, alumni, and a few select students, attendees gathered on the outdoor patio for aperitifs and hors d’oeuvres before visiting the ballroom foyer to examine and bid on silent auction items.

Volunteer co-chairs, Debbie Chambers, Beth and Craig Stark and Melissa and George Wagner welcomed arriving guests to the black-tie event.

“I took on this challenge in spite of the declining economy since I’m a true optimist,” explained Beth Stark. “This event is truly special for me because I’ve never before experienced such community outpouring of interest and generosity.”

Gowns ranged from bright red — Sara Fumagalli wore short, flirty scarlet — to subtle greens and blues. Along with many others, Paula Covelli came in black with sparkling accents down the back of her gown to just below her waistline. Mary Ann MacDonald chose a Josephine Sasso design with short lime skirt below a black top with discreet decolletage netting. Both Courtney Ott and Wanda Zaiser opted for fur shoulder wraps. Jane Badger was svelte in a floor-length Marissa Line gown.

The ballroom decor was a silvery blue expanse of round tables clothed in intricately figured organza, with soaring vases of fresh vegetation and complementary elements orchestrated by Rufino Hernandez at their centers. Unique table favors were boxed selections of gift cards to area restaurants. Intersecting and interlocking designs of blue and white were projected onto the ceiling to create a romantic aura.

Dinner courses paired filet of beef tenderloin with seared stone bass and culminated in ice cream and warm chocolate cake with a Bailey’s Irish Cream center. Energized by the sounds of Mickey Thomas and Starship, the new millennium version of Jefferson Starship, partners took to the floor to dance to “Find Your Way Back,” the band’s 1981 chart topper and the theme of this year’s event

Mayor Bill Barnett conducted the live auction to raise a bidding total of $63,500. Among the most coveted items was one offered by a senior at the school: Parker Borelli was a co-donor of a Jackson Hole holiday that went for $11,000, the highest bid of all.

Next came a Bahamian cruise aboard a private yacht whose donors, Karen and Myles Strohl, doubled their contribution to two identical cruises of $9,500 each. Carla Costa, school director of development, expects total net income from the event to each $500,000 from live and silent auction winning bids, ticket sales at $500 per person and proceeds from the 2009 Angel Ball Raffle of a $20,000 tuition credit or $10,000 in cash.

About $1.3 million in scholarship aid will help 25 percent of the student body during the 2009-10 scholastic year.

© 2009 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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