Amid swaying palms on a spectacularly balmy evening, Marymount of Santa Barbara celebrated its 35th annual benefit auction, “Cabo at the Coral.”

On April 30, guests donned their most fabulous fiesta attire and mingled oceanfront at the Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club in Santa Barbara with fresh margaritas, a nine-piece mariachi band and plenty of good cheer. And why not? The school has much to celebrate.

Marymount is reveling in a productive five-year stretch under beloved and outgoing Head of School Deborah David. Under David’s leadership, the school has experienced unprecedented academic achievement across all areas of its curriculum, landing students in the highest categories of the ERB standardized tests. Currently, 53 percent of students in grades 4-8 have qualified for programs at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth.

Co-chaired by parents Kim Blankenhorn and Sandy Shields, the benefit auction was a smashing success and exceeded the committee’s goal. More than $300,000 was raised to benefit the children and programs at Marymount.

“We chose this fiesta theme as it seemed the perfect reflection of the school’s celebratory nature,” Shields said.

Two heartfelt videos were a highlight of the evening. The first featured the children and faculty in action at Marymount. The second video was a special tribute to David, and there was not a dry eye in the La Pacifica Ballroom.

“We are extremely grateful to Debbi and the faculty and staff at Marymount,” Blankenhorn said. “Not only does the school provide our children with a top-notch education in a nurturing environment, but we also value its emphasis on character development and the importance of having a strong moral compass.”

Other highlights included the paddle raise that brought in more than $75,000 for the teacher endowment and the equally successful live auction led by auctioneer Todd Ventura. The live auction included trips to Cabo San Lucas, Fiji, Sun Valley, San Francisco and Aspen. An adorable 8-week old English cream retriever puppy was also auctioned to the highest bidder. A surprise second puppy from the same litter was brought out and sold for double the fun.

In addition to the live auction, there was a star silent auction, two raffles and a special section of students’ art projects. Silent auction items were also available for bidding online, enabling the school to raise nearly $30,000 of silent auction revenue before the event.

More than 40 parents served on the auction committee, but the key players included Kamala Parris (live auction), Linda Vannier and Pam Sanchez (silent auction), Jan Gomez (sponsorship), Nikki Greene (party book), Nina Gustason (invitations and publicity), Debbie Bettencourt (program) and Kim Curtis (toast). Marymount’s development staff — Andrea McFarling and Heidi Frost — also worked hard to make the event a success.

Top sponsors included Ralph and Melissa Iannelli, Sandy and Mike Shields, Ben and Cheryl Trosky, Kim and Chip Blankenhorn, Patricia and Brian Kelly, First Republic Bank, Helistrand, the Mammel Foundation and MarBorg Industries.

For more information about Marymount of Santa Barbara, click here or call 805.569.1811.

— Kim Blankenhorn is a Marymount of Santa Barbara parent and Board of Trustees member.