Gala Attracts Show of Support

July 2019

By Lois Maharg

Gala guests release paper lanterns in remembrance of people who died by suicide.

The Empowerment Gala lived up to its name. NAMI Washtenaw’s second annual gala, held May 18 at the Portage Yacht Club, netted almost $20,000, nearly twice the amount raised by the gala last year.

“I think there was more participation from the board this year and a little more lead time for planning,” said Judy Gardner, executive director of NAMI Washtenaw. The funds will enable the organization to continue its programming while ensuring sufficient support.

Attendance was also nearly twice as high as last year’s attendance, with 98 guests arriving at the Portage Yacht Club to show their support for NAMI Washtenaw and celebrate the organization’s 35th anniversary.

The evening began with cocktails and guests chatting over appetizers, beer and wine. The social hour was followed by a full dinner served buffet style. Throughout the evening Bryan Alfonso provided musical entertainment with his acoustic guitar.

Speakers Judy Gardner and fundraising cochairs Patricia Doyle and Alison Paine thanked everyone for coming and recognized sponsors, donors, volunteers and staff for their contributions to NAMI Washtenaw and work on the event.

Talk of the merchandise on offer in the silent auction came next. A total of 11 businesses and individuals donated goods and services displayed on tables around the room, contributing almost $2,000 to the total funds raised.

“Mary Pope, our financial administrative coordinator, did a lot of work on the silent auction and garnered the donations,” Gardner said. “Pat Doyle did, too.”

Just after sunset, several guests filed outside to a spot near the water’s edge. There they lit paper lanterns in memory of family, friends and acquaintances who died by suicide. The lanterns rose high in the air. On a cool breeze they drifted out over Portage Lake until they were lost to sight.

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