The 8th Annual Red Cross "Red Tie Affair Sparkles Once Again"
If there is one fundraising social event of the year, then the annual Red Cross Tie Affair hands down takes the prize. The hundreds of guests filled the swanky Fairmont Hotel’s ballroom glamorously attired with just about everyone wearing a touch of red in celebration of the signature theme.
The focus of this year’s gala was “A Salute to the Armed Forces,” members of whom, at their own peril, have defended and safeguarded the American way of life. Both active and retired troops from the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, Coast Guard, Navy, and Marine Corps were present. Commander Brian Kurzeja gave a heartfelt speech bringing home the enormous sacrifices these dedicated men and women make to our daily lives.
The Rick Crocker Spirit of Volunteerism Award, named for Santa Monica Red Cross volunteer and Santa Monica police officer who was killed in Iraq while on active duty as a United States Marine Corp Reservist, was Dr. Richard Corlin of Saint John’s Health Center who, for thirty years, has been donating his gastroenterology services to patients at the Venice Family Clinic.
For their ongoing support of the American Red Cross, this year’s Crystal Cross Award went to the Cast and Executive Producers of CBS’ NCIS – which stands for Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Members of the cast Brian Dietzen, Cote de Pablo, Michael Weatherly, Pauley Perrett and David McCallum brought in a good price during the Live Auction, adding to the evening’s financial haul.
While celebrities endow events with the panache and marketing tools needed to fill the house, it’s the volunteers who give freely of their time devoting themselves to helping others as well as, in interest of raising funds, offer themselves to the highest bidder.
The primary reason this event is so much fun and profitable is that it attracts a most enthusiastic, even a bit boisterous group of supporters of all ages who were especially vocal and energetic during the fast-moving Live Auction as bidding paddles flew into the air, sometimes staying there as the bidding war escalated. The ever-present Santa Monica Firemen, who have to be the hottest (no pun intended) group of men assembled on one stage, drove up the bid for dinner at the Number 1 Fire Station after one of them removed his shirt. Forget Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. In addition to protecting Santa Monica, these guys look great and cook, too!
One particularly interesting group of volunteers were the young ladies adorned in carefully restored original uniforms worn by World War II volunteer nurses. Each uniform has a story that the wearer is pleased to share in first person. For example, the uniform worn by Marina Leight belonged to Esther Chadborn who, in 1944, was stationed in France as the Overseas Field Director. Her diplomat husband was also stationed there as well. Nurse Elizabeth Hamlin wore this uniform in 1936 which is proudly worn by Ella Martell who shares that her nurse had no medical training but kept up the morale of wounded soldiers by reading to them, lighting their cigarettes, and writing letters.
With Fox 11 News anchor Christine Devine once again serving as Master of Ceremonies, her statement, “We are honoring the celebrities tonight who are here in uniform,” brought a wild, standing ovation from the audience. This year’s gala was, indeed, a rousing success with the generous outpouring by our community bearing witness to the depth of the human spirit in supporting the American Red Cross, our Armed Forces, and the quiet hero volunteers who are first on the scene to help in time of need.