Posted: 11-20-2013
Diamonds & Champagne Hope Ball

Written by Rosie Renkow

On November 8, the Brooklyn Art Center hosted the inaugural Women of Hope Diamonds & Champagne Ball, a fundraiser for Women of Hope, a charity founded by Kenny and Elizabeth Barnes of Wilmington, NC. “Women of Hope is unique because we support woman who are diagnosed with any type of cancer. We offer financial assistance and support programs, not only for the survivor but for the caregiver and their families,” said Penny Millis, who serves as volunteer director of development for Women of Hope.

By all accounts and any measure, the black tie event was a spectacular success. Everyone in attendance was beautifully dressed, including the gorgeous gold and white cake designed by Robin Cox (from Eat Dessert First) that glittered next to the stage.

Following the dining portion of the evening, the floor was cleared to make way for the “Dance for Your Life” showcase, coordinated by Lavonda Howard. Like Dancing With the Stars, the nonprofit dance contest featured six couples, with each duo giving energetic and captivating performances ranging from rumba to salsa to contemporary jazz. “I’m from Wilmington, and I’ve known of Kenny and Elizabeth since I was a little girl,” said Lavonda. “They asked me if I would be interested in donating time to help coordinate this event and of course I said yes.” For Lavonda, this event was especially important because of her own experience with cancer. “Women of Hope is near and dear to my heart because I’m also a breast cancer survivor of four years,” she said. “It’s so great to see organizations like Women of Hope. I found myself in the position of not only needing financial support but support to heal my spirit as well.”

The first couple to dance was Stacy and Roderick Bell, a duo from Virginia. They performed an upbeat rumba—complete with twirls and lifts and jumps—to I’m The Only One by Melissa Etheridge. After they completed their rumba, Summer McPherson (the founder of the Wilmington Latin Dance Studio) and her partner Antonio Aldan flawlessly executed a Bachata. Tim and Sandy Jones were next and did some serious shagging. The couple announced that “shag ‘til you drag” was their motto and then wowed the crowd.

The fourth dance featured a special performance from event coordinator Lavonda Howard and her partner, Tim Mills. They did a contemporary Jazz routine to Mary J. Blige’s Just Fine. For Tim, it was especially important to dance in support of Women of Hope because his sister has recently been diagnosed with cancer. “I felt helpless,” Tim said, “so this was something I could actually do.” The final couple, Marlene Zarate and Lukas Tillman, performed a salsa routine that thrilled the audience, though the duo was equally as thrilled just to be part of the event. “We’ve always active in the community, and this is a great cause. It’s really touched our hearts to be a part of an event that benefits women who have been struggling with cancer,” Marlene said.

In addition to the wining and dining and dancing, there was an excellent raffle and also 11 jewelry boxes that contained more than $1200 worth of handcrafted jewelry donated by Reeds Jewelers.

Though there were poignant moments, the overall feeling of kinship and support that filled the BAC made everyone involved feel grateful for the opportunity to do something special for Women of Hope and be a part of such a close-knit and caring community.


 




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