Glamour and opulence guided the spirit of diversity at the Pacific Pride Foundation’s third annual Royal Ball “Gay Paris” held at Bacara Resort & Spa and benefiting the nonprofit organization’s programs and services.
“This is the third annual Royal Ball and it benefits all the programs and services of the Pacific Pride Foundation,” executive director David Selberg said. “We are the LGBT, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and HIV/AIDS community center with offices in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara. We are the biggest organization between Los Angeles and San Francisco.”
The Pacific Pride Foundation has provided a wide range of services to the HIV/AIDS and LGBT communities of Santa Barbara County and the Central Coast for 38 years.
“We are hoping to make about $250,000 this year, all of which is going to finance our educational and life-saving programs,” Selberg told Noozhawk before the festivities got under way.
Ongoing outreach programs, such as HIV prevention and education, youth services and mental health counseling are provided by PPF at a low cost or for free, and are offered in English and Spanish at offices in Santa Barbara and Santa Maria. Other important services are HIV/AIDS direct client assistance and education, including testing and syringe exchanges, as well as education and training.
More than 600 guests attended the extraordinary fundraiser that was sold out for a third consecutive year. The atmosphere was electric and immersed in pride as guests walked the red carpet clad in stylish attire, ranging from black tie to fabulous costumes.
Merryl Brown Events and Rrivre Works created an opulent setting that transformed the Goleta venue into a trip to Paris, complete with a replica Eiffel Tower standing tall. White lights hanging from the top to the floor created a feeling of majesty that was appropriate for the royal setting as guests sipped cocktails and champagne under the stars before moving into the grand ballroom.
“This is our third year working with Merryl Brown, of Merryl Brown Events,” Selberg said. “She is amazing and a nationally recognized event planner, and we are so proud to have her represent us this year.”
Royal butlers effortlessly swerved through the masses with cocktails on silver trays while some guests waited in line for specialty drinks, including nonalcoholic beverages, at one of the many ballroom bars.
Beautiful dancers, performance artists and DJ Derek Monteiro kept the crowd dancing into the night with multiple disco balls spinning high above the dance floor, creating a sparkle in the red-hued room.
Established in 1976 as a drug and alcohol abuse counseling and referral center for gay men and lesbians, the Pacific Pride Foundation continues to provide sociocultural services sensitive to the needs of LGBT communities. It also partners with the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics, the San Luis Obispo County AIDS Support Network, the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center, Equality California and homeless shelters.
The LGBT programs include youth programs and services in Santa Barbara and Santa Maria where 30 to 35 youth each week gather in groups in a safe place for them to be who they are and be supported by their peers.
The organization also trains teachers in high schools throughout the county and instructs students on how to address bullying and harassment of LGBT youth.
Deemed to be the largest fundraiser for the foundation to date, Selberg shared that he was amazed and grateful for the outpouring of community support that makes the event a success every year.
“I get to stand in front of classrooms and meet with superintendents of schools on how to make these environments safer for LGBT youth,” he said. “And the people coming here tonight validate that — they’re supporting our food pantry, various counseling programs, as well as our nurses and social workers. It’s really heartening; it’s humbling.”
The critical importance of these youth programs is underscored by the suicide rate for LGBT youth that he said is as much as four times greater than the rest of the youth population.
PPF also provides emotional support and services for the LGBT elderly population who have lost a long-term partner.
“Santa Barbara is always known for a place that is inclusive, that loves each other, and the Pacific Pride Foundation has been a stellar organization that promotes important work in the community and supports people living with HIV/AIDS, or people who need counseling,” Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider said. “The cause is really important and tonight we are having a lot of fun doing it.”
— Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.