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Months of Planning Coming Together for Mayor's Charity Ball

May 12 event will raise funds for Hopeworks and Playhouse on Park.

Cinderella will probably be in absentia but there will be many other lovely ladies decked out in long gowns at the 13th annual Mayor’s Charity Ball. Once again, West Hartford’s own Prince Charming, Mayor Scott Slifka, will host the event that raises funds for two non-profit organizations integral to the community.

Over the years, the black-tie-optional event has become a much-anticipated gala for the hundreds who are regular attendees. Good food, lively entertainment, silent and live auctions of various items and services all combine to make the evening one to enjoy and, at the same time, help a good cause.

Slifka, who was elected Mayor in November 2004, will be helming his eighth Charity Ball. He notes that while the ball has always been an important fundraiser, these trying economic times have made it all the more vital to our non-profits.

 “The role of the ball has always been to provide financial support to several non-profits who reside in and provide services to residents of West Hartford. In recent years, given the state of the economy, this relationship has taken on an increased importance as our non-profits struggle to raise funds from traditional sources. So, quite literally, the ball provides a lifeline to these organizations.”

Slifka also addresses a common misconception that because of his association with the event, the town government is also involved with its planning. “Aside from lending my title, the ball receives no financial or administrative support from the town.”

has been a benefactor of the Mayor’s Charity Ball since the ball’s inception. Founded in 1973, Hopeworks is an essential community-based outreach organization that provides hope and help through counseling and educational programs to young people between the ages of 12 and 22 as well as their families. Development Director Whitney O’Donnell reflects on the town’s continued support for Hopeworks.

 “This is very meaningful for us because it is the community validating that our programs are working, showing us that the town has a commitment to us, and telling us that we are doing a good job. It reinforces the work that we are doing, gives us a great sense of community and allows us to continue to give back to the community, which is part of our mission.”

O’Donnell, who has been with Hopeworks since December, will be attending the nall for the first time. She has been watching first-hand how many hours the volunteer organizing committee members have put into the event.

“They are so dedicated and they just work so hard to get people to go the event. They are arranging a beautiful auction with many items that are unique and interesting,” O'Donnell said.

Hopeworks board president, Chris Skelly, agrees with O’Donnell, adding, “What I want to convey is that the ball is a very meaningful revenue source for Hopeworks.  We receive funds from schools, individual donations and grants, but this is the major fundraising event.”

The other benefactor for the evening is West Hartford’s community theater, . Located on Park Road, the theater is managed by Playhouse Theatre Group, Inc., a non-profit organization founded in May 2009. With a year-round performance schedule, the Playhouse produces an astonishing assortment of stage productions including musicals, plays, readings, comedy and improvisation shows, cabarets and concerts, dance productions, and presentations with in-house resident and visiting artists.

Playhouse on Park Executive Director Tracy Flater appreciatively acknowledges the significance of the funds raised through the ball for the theater.

“We are so grateful to be a part of The Mayor’s Charity Ball for the second year," she said. "This is one of our biggest fundraising events of the year, and we, a new non-profit arts organization, greatly depend on the revenue generated from this event.”

This year’s ball is the second one to be held under a tent on the Town Hall lawn. Previously, it had been held at the Hartford Golf Club. Last year’s attendees say that the new venue adds a certain magic to the night. Ann Mikulak, a board of director for both Hopeworks and The Mayor’s Charity Ball, notes the challenging logistics of pulling together everything that makes up the evening. “We have so much going on and it’s a lot of work but it makes for an event that is quite lively.”

The silent and live auction items, Mikulak says, “run the gamut from sophisticated trips to items donated from local businesses.” She reports that some items will be available for viewing and bidding on The Mayor’s Charity Ball website prior to the event for those who would like a sneak peek and for those who will be unable to attend but would like to place a bid. Mikulak looks forward to attending the event and seeing the fruits of her and all of the other volunteers’ labors. “There’s something special about our community. With this event, we are focusing on our Mayor, our community … just us.”

The evening’s music will be provided by singer, songwriter and stage performer Latanya Farrell, accompanied by The Bookman Styles Band. Farrell, a 2003 winner of the Connecticut Star Search Competition, performs a variety of music from original songs to popular classics as well as R&B standards. She and the band maintain a busy schedule performing across New England. In addition, The Playhouse Cabaret Singers will perform; they’re actors who have been featured in a series of cabaret shows at the Playhouse. The ensemble performs weekly at Falcetti Music in Blue Back Square.

Months of planning go into this event and it would not be possible without the all-volunteer board of directors. Slifka heaps praise upon these people who are largely members from the two beneficiary organizations. “Their members volunteer their time to plan and administer every aspect of the ball and they do it so well that few are aware of the incredible effort that goes into pulling it off,” he said.

Flater, too, admires the work that the evening’s volunteers, including members of the Playhouse’s board of directors, have put into planning and running the gala. She says that the end result makes it all worth it. “It’s always a first rate event. I’m so looking forward to May 12th!”

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