Gourmet Gala going strong for McDonald House

First Posted: 3/21/2012

Guests who attend the upcoming 2012 Annual Gourmet Gala should be prepared to enter a ballroom decorated with colors of red, purple, gold and fuchsia and bedecked with feathers, candelabra, votive candles, twinkling lights and fresh flowers, according to John Mackey, gala decorations committee co-chair.

The theme for the 25th anniversary gala is Moulin Rouge, and the color scheme will reflect the vibrant colors and set of the 2001 Oscar winning movie starring Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor and John Leguizamo.

Mackey is known for taking his decors to extremes. “We’re a very detailed -oriented company…we like to push it as far as we can push it, as far as themes go…We’re going to try to create an aura in the room using more than 1,000 balloons to decorate… There will be an array of different things to bring people to the Moulin Rouge movie.”

The Gourmet Gala will be held March 25, 5 – 8 p.m. at Genetti Manor, Main Ave., Dickson City. Proceeds will benefit the Scranton Ronald McDonald House, also known as the “House That Love Built,” a home-away-from-home for families of hospitalized children with serious illness, and Ronald McDonald House Charities of NEPA.

Carol Chisdak, gala co-chair, said of the event, “It has been my pleasure to co-chair and chair such a worthy cause benefiting the Ronald McDonald House of Scranton. “

Ellen Beechko, of Clarks Summit and Regina Peters, of Roaring Brook Twp. are co-founders of the Gourmet Gala, which premiered in 1987, and continues to gain momentum.

Beechko said, “Twenty-five years ago, I was asked to be on the board of the Ronald McDonald House. Dr. (Melvin) Wolk asked me to be on the board and on the very first day that I showed up for the board meeting I was asked, ‘What kind of fundraisers can you come up with? We (Beechko and Regina Peters) both had fundraiser ideas and I came up with the gourmet gala because I knew it was successful in the Lancaster area. We went around and asked restaurants to make, for example, Lobster Newburg for 750 people – for free. We had success. Our first restaurant was Nichols Village. The first year we had approximately 30 restaurants that committed to doing the event. What I felt good about was that everybody benefits – guests benefit, restaurants benefit through the PR (public relations) and the Ronald McDonald House benefits.”

The first year the Gourmet Gala raised $17,500 and most every year after that, the event has raised more than $50,000 each year. “We were able to contribute to the expansion of the Ronald McDonald House, which was more than $1 million and all of the proceeds go directly to the Ronald McDonald House of Scranton,” said Beechko.

Beechko said the event takes 10 months to plan and that committee members have volunteered their time for “many, many years.” Approximately 17 committees with additional subcommittees assist.

Dr. Wolk is also credited for bringing Peters to the Ronald McDonald House board. “I was asked to join the board… in 1986 by Dr. Mel Wolk,” said Peters. “He said it was a start-up board and it (the board) needed a person strong on community involvement and organizing special events. At the time, I was serving on several other boards but was drawn to the cause, so I resigned from one board and accepted the seat on the Ronald McDonald House board.”

Peters noted that Ellen (Beechko) was the creative driver for the gala and Peters was the organizational driver. “We began the process of enlisting the restaurants – a tough sell at first. Asking them to provide food for 600 people was overwhelming. But we did it with the help of a great committee and community. People loved it and still do.”

Peters was a board member for 21 years and is still an active advocate for the cause. “I am very proud of the longevity of this event and the funds we have raised. Most importantly, I am proud of the team of volunteers who worked with us on the Gala over the past quarter century to raise the funds so we could provide respite and comfort to the families of sick kids.”

Area restaurants and caterers to participate in 2012 gala include Accentuate Caterers/Six East; Amici Restaurant; Arcaro & Genell Restaurant; Bella Faccias Personalized Chocolates & Gifts; BEKO Sushi Bar & Grill and Martini Lounge; Blu Wasabi; Café Rinaldi; Camelot Restaurant and Inn; Carmen’s Italian Restaurant; Casey’s Corner at the Hilton; Chocolate Creations; Community Medical Center Food & Nutrition Services; Cooper’s Seafood House; Down Home Rice Pudding; East Mountain Inn; Ehrhardt’s Waterfront Restaurant; Electric City Roasting Company at Zummo’s Café; Formosa Restaurant; French Manor; Genetti Manor; Gerrity’s Supermarket; Gertrude Hawk Chocolates; Green Ridge Club; John’s Italian Restaurant Greentown; Kelly’s Pub & Eatery; Laird Wine and Spirits of PA; Longhorn Steak House; L.T. Verrastro, Inc.; Mackery Fruit & Produce; Maiolatesi Wine Cellars; Manning’s Ice Cream and Milk; Mariano’s Cucina; McDonald’s Restaurants of the Greater Scranton Area; Moses Taylor Hospital; Nimble Hill Vineyard & Winery; Northern Wine and Spirits; Overboards; Panera Bread; Patsel’s; Pocono Provision; Sambuca Grille & Bar; Sibio’s Restaurant; State Street Grill; Stirna’s Restaurant; Sweet Sensations; The Woodland’s Inn and Resort; Truly Scrumptious; Villa Maria Restaurant I & II; and Vintner’s Circle.

The event is sponsored by First Liberty Bank & Trust, WNEP-16 The News Station and Lamar Advertising.

Tickets are $40 advance donation and $45 at the door. For tickets and information, call 969.8998.

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