An auspicious evening of Chinese zodiac delights greeted guests at this year’s Storyteller Children’s Center gala, whose theme “The Year of the Water Dragon” seems to have brought good luck to the highly successful fundraising event, which raised more money than last year and even surpassed this year’s goals.
“We’re thrilled with the success of the event and the generosity of our supporters,” said Tiffany Foster, gala chairwoman and president of the Storyteller board of directors. Storyteller is a preschool for homeless and at-risk children, and offers comprehensive support services in two locations in Santa Barbara for children ages 18 months to 5 years old and their families.
The Year of the Water Dragon is a symbol of good fortune in the Chinese calendar that only comes around once every 60 years. While the dragon usually has a fiery personality, the water brings out patience and sensitivity, helping the dragon make wise decisions and work well with others — similar to the attributes of Storyteller’s teachers and therapists, who help the toddlers and preschoolers in their care develop the social and emotional maturity so critical for later success in school.
The nearly 400 supporters at the gala started the evening with cocktails poolside at Bacara Resort & Spa, and then later moved to the ballroom, where they were surprised by an original dance performed by 12 local dancers and choreographed by Brooke Hughes Melton and inspired by Chinese zodiac characters.
After dinner, a powerful video told the story of Carlitos, who enrolled at Storyteller as a toddler. In addition to living in poverty, Carlitos’ parents are both sight-impaired; his mother is blind and his father can only see shadows. While walking Carlitos to school one day last winter, the family was hit by a car. Fortunately, they suffered only minor injuries, but now Storyteller gives them bus passes so they can bring their son to school safely. After the video, and with few dry eyes in the room, Storyteller executive director Terri Allison led an incredibly successful paddle raise, garnering three times as much as last year.
“I felt that the evening brought out the best of our community — people really reached to give and their hearts were with Storyteller from the moment the beautiful film was screened,” said Elizabeth Gabler, one of the key gala committee members. “It was an amazing connection because the packed-to-capacity room was so very understanding of the mission of the evening.”
Other key gala committee members included Jill Chase, Suzanne Garrett and Molly Green. Major sponsors of the event included Bacara Resort & Spa, Kind World Foundation, lynda.com, U.S. Bank, Babcock Winery & Vineyards, Louise and Tim Casey, Nancy and Tom Crawford, Deckers Outdoor Corp., Tiffany and Frank Foster, Elizabeth and Lee Gabler, Marisa and Brett Grimes, JPMorgan Chase, Patty and John MacFarlane, Rincon Technology/Bartling and Kelly Families, Julia and J.B. Rodgers, Elizabeth and Kenny Slaught, and The Wood-Claeyssens Foundation. Tamara Jensen of I.D.O. Events planned the event and was also a sponsor.
After the video and paddle raise, the curtains parted, revealing the Dragon’s Lair in the next room, where dancing and dessert took place next to a giant inflatable multicolored dragon, borrowed from the Santa Barbara Summer Solstice Celebration. A giant compatibility chart on the wall told patrons whether their Chinese zodiac sign was in alignment with their partner, and bar patrons stepped up to an all-ice bar in the shape of a dragon.
“People seemed to have a great time,” said Foster, the gala chairwoman, who worked hard to make sure the evening, while providing lots of fun and entertainment, focused primarily on the Storyteller children. “I wanted to make sure that everyone there on the night of the event understood why we were there. We kept tying it back to Storyteller and the kids and families.”
Click here for more information about Storyteller’s Children’s Center, or call Melissa Walker at 805.682.9585.