• Sally Gerak

Social Lights Nov. #1, 2019

Updated: Dec 13, 2019

Events reported in this issue

  • Michigan Opera Theatre Gala 49

  • Women Officials Network WONder Woman Awards

  • Cultural Council Birmingham Bloomfield Arts Awards

  • Pink Fund Dancing with the Survivors

  • CARE House Care Night Gala

  • Walsh Leadership Awards

  • GiGi's Playhouse A Night to Inspire

  • Impact100 Oakland County Grants

  • Variety, The Children's Charity Annual Meeting

Michigan Opera Theatre Gala 49

The Michael Fabiano and American Ballet Theatre concerts before dinner were spellbindingly beautiful, but the real stars of the 2019 Opera Ball were the two honorees - George Shirley and Rick Williams. The 84-year-old Shirley told guests gathered at a small reception “…In my old age I’ve become determined to do what God determined I would do (by giving me) a great gene pool implanted at the moment of conception.” That would be to continue as a voice instructor. During the dinner program the internationally acclaimed tenor spoke about the importance of music in the Detroit public schools where he first taught. “Music is a language that grows pathways in the brain,” he said, citing the music literacy demonstrated by the nationally praised Detroit Youth Choir. After leading the board for 17 challenging years, Williams, who is passing the chairmanship to Ethan Davidson, was another center of attention because, as President / CEO Wayne Brown noted, Rick’s leadership style encourages all - artists, staff and donors - and has secured the visionary legacy of the late founder David DiChiera. Others in the event spotlight included Matt Simoncini, retired Leer chief, who acted as auctioneer for a four-item live auction that garnered $55,000, and committee co-chair Jennifer Fischer. She praised her “sister co-chairs” Gretchen Davidson, Pernilla Ammann, Betty Brooks, Shauna Ryder Diggs, Mona Simoncini and Karen Williams for the decisions that resulted in the elegant event. The boffo evening that attracted 450 guests ($750 and up tickets) raised more than $1.6-million for MOT initiatives: education and community engagement, Detroit Opera House enhancement and auditorium seat replacements.


1. KC & Ashley Crain, sponsor Richard Brodie

2. Sponsors Karen & honoree Rick Williams and Ethan & Gretchen Davidson

3. Honoree George Shirley, MOT Pres/CEO Wayne Brown

4. Sponsors Joanne Danto & Arnie Weingarden, Lisa DiChiera and her son Aidan Kane

5. Sponsors Wally Prechter and Al Lucarelli

6. Wendy Silverman, sponsor Nancy Tellem, Dorothy Gerson

7. Sponsors Linda Dresner Levy & Ed Levy

8. Brian & Carol Roney, Joi Leo, Steve Jensen

9. Joy Nachman, Sally Orley

10. Marta & John Schaefer

11. Singer Dino Vollo, sponsor Ford’s Jim Graham, Estefania Furr

12. MOT Dance Advisor Jon Teeuwissen, sponsor Lorna Thomas

13. Andrew Loy, Anne Berlucchci

14. MOT board chair-elect Ethan Davidson, MOT Resident Artist Programs Director Richard Leech

Women Officials Network Foundation

The 35th WONder Woman Awards Banquet attracted 125 supporters ($125 & up tickets), including 32 past awardees, to Glen Oaks Golf Club. The event, chaired by foundation VP Layne Sakwa, honored four public sector women leaders who, according to foundation president Dr. Sherry Mitchell, “…did not let their circumstances define them.” Judge Diane D’Agostini, who was introduced by her law student daughter, declared her own Iraqi immigrant widowed mother, was her Wonder Woman and that living in the USA “motivates me.” Susy Heintz Avery got a tad teery when Lynn Alexander read notes written by her son and daughter. State Representative Brenda Carter, who grew up one of 13 children living “in unbelievable poverty,” followed a sister’s advice” “Don’t be like the rest of us; make something of yourself.” When past WONder Woman Deb Macon received a special Super WONder Woman award, she credited her dedication to public service to the example of her own parents. “They always showed up,” she said. Counting proceeds from a silent auction, the uplifting evening raised more than $14,000 for the foundation. It works to empower leaders of today and mentor leaders of tomorrow. For more information go to www.womensofficialsnewtwork.org.


1. Super Wonder Woman Deb Macon, past Wonder Woman, Cynthia von Oeyen

2. Suham Dickow, her daughter / Wonder Woman, Diane D’Agostini with husband Lorenzo and daughter Gabrielle

3. Judge Jim & Lynn Alexander, a past Wonder Woman, 2019 Wonder Woman Susy Heintz Avery, her husband Lance Avery

4. WON Foundation board president Dr. Sherry Mitchell and VP/event chair Layne Sakwa

5. Erin Schweibold, Wonder Woman founder Sue Nine (also a past Wonder Woman), judge Kim Small

6. 2019 Wonder Woman Brenda Carter (center) with four of the student ambassadors (leaders of tomorrow) she took to Japan: Lefferny Chipen (left), Jasmine Marie Hensler, Rachel Matos and Linsbeth Cotto-Maldonado

7. Super WONder Woman Deb Macon with gift hat ("because she always wears a hat") Photo credit: Bill Bertakis

Cultural Council Arts Awards

Arts lovers gathered at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center to applaud recipients of the annual Cultural Council of Birmingham Bloomfield awards. They were welcomed by CCBB president Laurie Tennent (herself a past awardee), and co-chairs Marcy Heller Fisher, Anita DeMarco and Peggy Kerr (also a past awardee). Barbara Heller, Director and Conservator of Special Projects at the Detroit Institute of Arts and energetic arts volunteer, was nominated for the 24th annual Arts Award by Kathy Walgren who introduced her. Pam Coultis, who nominated Hagopian World of Rugs for a new award - Partners with the Arts - introduced Suzanne and Edmond Hagopian and Angela Hagopian Snow. For 25 years, their business has hosted Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings concerts, and sponsored rug design scholarships and student genocide essay contests. The Birmingham Bloomfield Cultural Arts Awards are sponsored by the Cultural Council of Birmingham Bloomfield, in partnership with The Community House, The Observer and Eccentric Newspapers, and the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center. Link Wachler, of LINK Jewelry Designs, designed the 2019 presentation award.


1. Honoree Barbara Heller, her sisters Marcy Heller Fisher and Vicki Heller

2. Partners with the Arts awardee Hagopian World of Rugs’ Angela Hagopian Snow, Edmond & Suzanne Hagopian

3. CCBB president Laurie Tennent, co-chairs Peggy Kerr and Anita DeMarco

4. Pam Coultis, who nominated the Hagopians, Kathy Walgren who nominated Barbara Heller

5. Award artist Link Wachler, sponsor BBAC’s Annie VanGelderen, sponsor The Community House’s Bill Seklar

6. Honoree Barbara Heller with Ellen Kahn

Pink Fund Dancing with the Survivors

Memories linger from the seventh annual Pink Fund cocktail dinner party that brought 350 ($150 ticket) to the Shriner’s Silver Garden Center in Southfield to applaud breast cancer survivors. They include: founder Molly MacDonald’s powerful personal story as a SurThrivor not only of breast cancer, but also of desertion (by her ex-husband of her and their five young children); the wall of greenery made by board VP / emcee Fran Parson’s husband that dispensed drinks when someone rang the bell mounted on it; singer / songwriter / breast cancer survivor Carolyn Striho’s show-opening song “I Will Rise”; survivor / financial advisor Rebecca Sorsensen’s admission that she “…does not follow well.” At the end of her performance back up dancers (including her two daughters, Dana and Claire, plus Gail Pope, Rachelle Nozero, Karole Davies, Lauri Dailey and Debbie Braciszewski) joined her on stage. The upbeat soiree added $174,000 to the $3.7+ million the Pink Fund has raised to pay non-medical bills for breast cancer patients in treatment since MacDonald founded the fund in 2006.


1. Pink Fund Founder Molly MacDonald, event chair / sponsor Joan Primo

2. Emcee Fran Parsons, board member Judy Vindici

3. SurThrivor dancers: Tresse Roby, Kelly Schalk, Ryan Plecha (who danced in tribute to his aunt),Michele Baker and Rebecca Sorensen


4. Pam Riggs Maturo, Rick Sorensen

5. Lacey Foon, her mother / co-chair emeritus / sponsor Carol Ziecik

6. Ron & Gail Rashid

7. Niki Gallaudet, board member Tom Pettit, Sheila Kasselman

8. Fred Astaire Dance Studio proprietor Evan Mountain (center) with dancers Misha Annienkov (left) and Viktor Tkachenko

9. Roger & sponsor Celgene’s Tia Dowdell

10. Two of Molly Drake MacDonald’s five children: Ken Drake and Brittany MacDonald

11. Allan & Joy Nachman

12. Susan Dicker Forbes at the Drink Wall

13. Raffle ticket seller Julie & Alex Martin

14. Scott Pugh, Darryl Zinke

15. Jill Alicea, Brad Gray, Julie Arbuckle, Jerry Petty

16. Renee & Sam Navetta

17. Sponsors

18. Sponsors

CARE House Care Night Gala

Nearly 300 guests, including members of CH co-founder the Junior League of Birmingham, gathered at the beautiful Townsend Hotel to benefit those who deal with the ugliness of sexual abuse. The star of the evening was abuse survivor Shawntae Jackson. In the video preceding her remarks she told her now-in-jail abuser, “You did not break me.” And she got a standing ovation when she thanked CARE House and its supporters for her second chance for life. "You made me stronger,” she declared. Following dinner Dan Stall made the bidding spirited for the 13 live auction items that included a progressive dinner for three couples to five top Detroit restaurants with chartered car service and three overnight rooms at the Foundation Hotel. Thanks also to generous sponsors and pledges, champagne table chances and two 52-card raffles, the gala, chaired by Marla Feldman, Michael Jacobson and Joe and Nichole Dineen, raised $388,800. The next CARE House benefit is the Circle of Friends Luncheon Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020 at the Townsend Hotel. It will star Rachel Denhollander, the sexual abuse victim who first blew the whistle on Larry Nassar. For sponsorships contact Chad Ozias at 248-333-4936.


1. Event chairs: sponsor KPMG’s Joe & Nichole Dineen and sponsor Jaffe Law’s Michael Jacobson and board chair / sponsor Feldman Automotive’s Marla Feldman

2. Survivor / speaker Shawntae Jackson (center), her adopted mom Kristie Jordan (left) and her CARE House therapist Tiffany Root

3. Deitrich Sneideraitis, board member Denise Abrash, Jim Hayes

4. Board members Eliot & Whitney Weiner

5. Newlyweds Steve & Tracy Muscat Lareau

6. Dan & Alison Ristovski, Anne & Derek Faraj

7. Board member Nikki Braddock, Jillian Levine, Alyce Tassoni

8. Newly engaged Derek Board and Anne Nechal

9. Lynsey & Steve Bernard

10. Bob & board member Maryclare and Colin Pulte

11. Board member Elise & Steve Guidos

12. Brier & Garry Neel

13. Joy & Jim Gariepy

14. Kristina & Sam O’Brien

15. Jeff & Jennifer Stafeil, Angela & Jay Wachowicz

16. Kevin & Shanna Mulcahy

17. Sponsors

18. Sponsors

Walsh Leadership Awards Dinner

The 19th annual Walsh College Foundation scholarship fundraiser drew 225 ($300, $500 tickets) to the Townsend Hotel for drinks, dinner and some notable stories like Distinguished Graduate of the last decade Ernst & Young’s Cybersecurity specialist Vicki Kamenova’s. She noted that 20 years ago her parents bought her a one-way ticket from Bulgaria to “…this wonderful country” and thanked EY’s Sean Wessman for making her life-changing WC scholarship possible. AT&T Michigan’s David C. Lewis, the Kresge Foundation’s Amy B. Robinson, the Clayton & McKervey CPA firm and soon to retire Michigan CPA President and CEO Peggy A. Dzierzawski were also honored for significant contributions to education and community. Past honoree Paul Glantz, noting that his blessings are rooted in education, offered to match scholarship donations. This raised $54,000 via mobile bidding. Thanks also to bidding on four live auction items, a raffle and generous sponsors, the awards dinner raised $165,000 for scholarships at the college where proven business minds teach business and technology courses in bachelor’s and master’s degree programs.


1. Honoree Peggy Dzierzawski, retired Walsh president Stephanie Bergeron

2. Honoree Clayton & McKervey Chairman Emeritus Don Clayton, WC foundation board chair Lou Schmidt

3. Honoree Ernst & Young’s Vicki Kamenova, WC President Marsha Kelliher, Vice President Susan Foley

4. Board members Barbara Mahone and honoree AT&T’s David Lewis

5. Marilyn Steffens, LaKeisha Florence and honoree Kresge Foundation’s Amy & Kevin Robinson

6. Sponsor / honoree Clayton & McKervey’s Tim Hilligoss, President Rob Dutkiewicz and Denise Asker

7. Past honoree Paul & Mary Glantz, Courtney & past honoree / board chair Mike Plotzke

8. Sponsor CIBC’s Pete (& Suzanne) Bilodeau, Bill Keller, and (Susan &) Bruce Beaumont

9. Board member Dave & Kathy Petoskey

10. Board member Bill Roney & Joanne Kelley

11. Devin & foundation director Shanice Bennett

12. Honoree Peggy & Ron Dzierzawski

13. George Petrentzev & honoree Ernst & Young’s Vicki Kamenova

14. Student speaker Aysha Abdul Shahid (center) with Walsh’s Stephen Sholty (left) and Scott Trudell

15. Joe & Heidi Imellizari, board member Mark Albrecht

16. Honoree Clayton & McKervey shareholders Margaret Amsden and Jim Biehl

17. Sponsors

18. Sponsors

GiGi’s Playhouse A Night to Inspire

Most of the 150 guests at the Royal Oak Framers Market on Oct. 11 did dress a la the party’s Roaring 20’s theme. And the 18-piece Gary Greenfelder Orchestra played music from the era - thankfully, suitable for chatting as well as dancing. Other diversions included a speakeasy bar, comestibles by Kristina’s Catering for dining on the stroll, a silent auction that brought in $15,125 and Bubbles & Bling (36 people paid $100 for a glass of champagne and a chance on a Tapper’s diamond bracelet). During an intermission in the music, emcee Ann Marie LaFlamme and GiGi’s Playhouse Detroit board chair Lisa Kocab conducted Dedicated Giving which brought in $10,300. That’s enough for a big sign above the entrance to the Detroit GiGi’s Playhouse, a Down Syndrome Achievement Center which opened in January in Southfield’s Evergreen Plaza Shopping Center at 12 Mile & Evergreen. It offers free therapeutic programming (social, educational, physical) for people of all ages who have that extra chromosome which causes the condition. The first Night to Inspire raised $70,000 to help empower individuals with Down syndrome to overcome obstacles and be their best.


1. Bob & Susan Chrysler, board president Lisa Chrysler Kocab

2. Bob & board member Denise Moore

3. Sponsors Mark & Molly Corombos, Ashley & Bob Caza (Molly & Ashley are board members)

4. Events director Jorja Rapelje-Frank, her mother Evelyn Edwards

5. Dave, Luke and board member Amy Tyrrell

6. Caryn Ciagne, Greg Schwartz, Paul & board member Suzanne O’Leary

7. Joey Gallagher, Catherine Corombos, Shane Karabelski

8. Joey Gallagher dancing with emcee Ann Marie LaFlemme

9. Julian & Evelyn Cheek, Dave Kocab

10. Volunteers Emma Blake and Joslyn Vince

11. Playhouse site coordinator Kaitlyn & Anthony Wojciechowski

12. Sponsor / volunteer Mark Chockley dancing with Catherine Corombos

13. Sponsors

14. Sponsors

Impact100 Oakland County Grants

Members of Impact100 Oakland County gathered at the Royal Park Hotel on Oct. 22 to determine the recipients of their 2019 philanthropy. It totaled $306,000. After speakers from the finalist agencies described the program for which they sought funds, members voted. The winners who each received $102,000 were: Crossroads for Youth, Friendship Circle, and Kids Kicking Cancer. Impact100 Oakland County is a women’s philanthropic organization dedicated to improving the community by providing large-scale grants to nonprofits serving Oakland County. Since its inception in 2016, the organization has awarded $877,000 to projects that demonstrate a measurable impact on the community. Grants are awarded to projects in the areas of arts and culture, education, environment/recreation, family, and health and wellness. For more information, visit www.impact100oaklandcounty.org.


Variety Annual Meeting

The same night as the above-mentioned event, board members, directors and sponsors of Variety, The Children’s Charity convened at the Townsend Hotel to celebrate a banner year of enriching the lives of children with special needs. The financial report and the reports of Variety’s five core programs evoked smiles of great satisfaction. And Paul W. Smith was soundly applauded when out-going president Lois Shaevsky surprised him with the Variety International Media Award. But even louder applause was earned by the proud owner of a prescriptively modified bicycle from Variety Bikes for Kids program as he smilingly rode it around the Regency Ballroom. Past president Felicia Palazzolo-Shaw administered the oath of office to the new president, David King, his executive committee comprised of Rhonda Sabatini, Kim Smith, Patricia Whitney, Ruthie Seltzer and Jon Goldstein and the directors in attendance. Goldstein is hosting an exclusive advance screening of “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" 7 pm, Thursday, Nov. 21 at his Maple Theater to benefit Variety. For tickets ($35, $45) got to themapletheater.com.


1. Outgoing board president Lois Shaevsky, new president David King

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by Sally G.

Sally G.

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