Boys and Girls Club Mardi Gras Sparkled

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By Roel Godinez – On Saturday, March 2nd, The Boys and Girls Club of Vista held its annual Diamond Gala Fundraiser at the affluent Carlsbad Westin Resort and Spa. From 5:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., the Westin’s broad foyers and Grand Pacific Ballroom hosted approximately three hundred well dressed guests. Many of the attendees have close ties to the Boys and Girls Club, this includes club board members, contributors, sponsors, and previous club members.

The Carlsbad Westin Resort and Spa, which was once the Sheraton, is nestled atop Carlsbad’s lush green hills, overlooking Legoland. The sun was beginning to set, casting a rich orange hue upon the Westin’s tall paned windows. As each guest arrived, he or she was warmly greeted by the glamorous Vista Pageant Court of several Miss Vistas’ and one Mr. Vista, as well as a small group of Boys and Girls Club members dressed to the nines. In keeping with the Mardi Gras theme, guests were showered in beaded necklaces upon checking in. The first hour and a half was dedicated to guests socializing, enjoying champagne, cocktails, and appetizers while taking part in a silent auction.

This fundraiser is an essential part of the club because families only pay $50 to enroll their child for a year while the actual cost is closer to $700. The yearly income goal for the Diamond Gala is $100,000, which is gathered through the two hundred dollar per person entrance fee and the various items that are sold through the auction. This year, the auction offered a wide range of items: there were unique travel packages, aged wines, signed sports memorabilia, home appliances, and many more tantalizing options that are too numerous to mention. Two of the more remarkable items were a private dinner with former NFL Linebacker for the St. Louis Rams, Pisa Tinoisamoa, and an autographed photo and glove from heavyweight boxing champion “Smokin’ Joe.”

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After the silent auction came to a close, the guests moved into the Grand Pacific Ballroom for dinner. While dinner was served, everyone’s attention was drawn towards the front of the room.

”Good evening everyone!” said the CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Vista, Matt Koumaras. “I wanted to take the time to thank you for spending the night with us and celebrating great futures. As a former teacher I can tell you firsthand that kids need as much support outside of school as they do In school.”

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Koumaras went on to thank the many contributors who made the night possible. He also explained how each Boys and Girls Club member benefits immensely from the community and support they receive from the club. Children who attend the club have a much higher chance of graduating high school and going to college.

After Koumaras spoke, the dinner continued with several more speakers. Emcee Mari Peyton, the Senior investigative reporter for NBC 7, also thanked contributors and congratulated board member Carol Herrera for winning the ‘Have a Heart for Kids’ award. This carried over to a congratulations for ‘Youth of the Year’ winner Emely Rosales.

Following this, several of the younger club members took turns entertaining the diners. First, a dancing duo in glittering masquerade attire danced on stage, prompting a delighted cheer from the crowd. After the dancers gave their bows, they were followed by “The Diamonds”, six promising club members who were chosen to speak about their experiences within the club, each being more inspiring than the last.

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After the speech portion of the evening, the live auction started with the animated auctioneer Kenny Shirey, took place. Once concluded, the dishes were collected and the games began. For the following two hours, guests indulged in a risk free casino night. Each guest started with $200 in chips, with the option to buy more chips for either $20 or $50. They were free to choose from the various games that were available; including craps, blackjack, and roulette. The thrill of the games carried on late into the night. Once the the clock struck eleven, the crowd began to disperse. Though the night was fun, the real winners are the boys and girls who will receive the funding to continue to attend the club that gives them an opportunity to succeed.

“You know,” Have a Heart for Kids Award winner Carol Herrera said, “we all have to have a heart for children because they are the soul of the community. It’s all about community. If we don’t take care for our community, our community does not thrive.”

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