By Michael H. Margolin / Special to The Detroit News
DEARBORN -- The humidity in the air helped reinforce the tropical theme of the evening -- Havana Nights. So did the music coming from the Johnny Rodriguez Fiery Latin Jazz Band.
Inside Dearborn's Ritz-Carlton, partygoers in black tie and alternative black tie came together to benefit the Michigan chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
"This event is always spectacular," said Ricki Nederlander of Birmingham, standing next to Florine Mark, CEO of Weight Watchers.
The Michigan MS Chapter raises money for services as well as research, said Pat McDonald, its president and CEO. This year's event, attended by nearly 600, raised $350,000.
Describing the disease, McDonald said: "It strikes without warning, people in their prime, between ages 25 and 40."
George Gant of Midland, recently retired from Dow Chemical, was first diagnosed at 31.
He spoke of the changes that MS forces a person to undergo -- psychologically, physically, emotionally.
Also in the crowd, Ely Toma, who said he recently raised $30,000 for the society through pledges and underwriting a bike race from Metro Detroit to Lansing called the "MS150."
Isiah Thomas foundation will stay here in Detroit
While former Detroit Pistons great Isiah Thomas has been named head-coach for the Indianapolis Indiana Pacers, the successful foundation, which bears his name, is staying in Detroit according to its executive director Jessica Guyor.
The foundation has produced successful fund-raisers. The May 23 Motor City Revival raised $140,000 for local agencies which serve children and Isiah's pet project, a mentoring program called 2000 for 2000.
Last year's Celebrity Golf Classic raised $200,000.
This year's golf tournament will be Sept. 11 at the Detroit Golf Club. Celebrity golfers and team captains include supermodel Tyra Banks and actors Jeff Daniels and Samuel L. Jackson. There will be a kickoff party the night before. Tickets for the golf classic and the pre- and post-parties are $3,500 per foursome. Call (248) 723-9173 for more information.
Detroit Auto Show preview will cost more
The 2001 Detroit International Auto Show Charity Preview will cost a bit more. The ticket price has gone up from $300 to $350 for the Jan. 12 event that sells out each year.
Co-chaired by Michael Savoie and Mark Snethkamp, well-known Metro Detroit auto dealers, the event will stay the same: cocktails, appetizers, celebrity watching, and new car unveilings.
Rod Alberts, who heads up the Detroit Auto Dealers Association, which produces the tremendously successful event that raises $5 million in one night, said: "We're most proud of the fact that we raise money for charities. It's the single biggest charity event in North America."
Michael Margolin is a Metro Detroit free-lance writer. Reach him at
firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail at P.O. Box 185, 512 S. Washington, Royal
Oak, MI 48067.