Saturday night, I had the chance to join my lovely wife, Wendi Warren, the founder of this blog, for a wonderful evening at The Village Network’s Sweet Jubilation at the Shisler Center on the Wooster campus of Ohio State University. Never having seen Sweet Jubilation up close and personal, I always thought of it as a black-tie affair to raise money for the nonprofit organization.
The entire evening was a fun time, except for one moment (but, we’ll return to this later). We walked in and saw a lot of friends, community leaders and coworkers engaging in a social time dressed in all kinds of garb. The theme for this year’s event was “Turn Back Time,” and attendees were encouraged to dress from a decade of their choosing: 1950s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, or 90’s. Wendi wanted to dress like the ’80s, a decade we both remember fondly.
When we walked in, one of the first people I saw was Rich Graziano, president and chief executive officer of The Village Network. His “costume” floored me: A powder blue tuxedo from the 1970s with matching haircut, sideburns and mustache. I was cracking up. There were company presidents dressed up like hippies or in suits and hair from the Starsky and Hutch era. To honor the theme of Turn Back Time, Lynette Mattson dressed as Cher, but not that Cher and not that outfit. She wore Clueless Cher Horowitz’s yellow plaid outfit.
The event featured a silent auction and a live auction. There were a number of items Wendi had hoped to purchase, but in the live auction, often the starting price was about at the maximum level we wanted to spend. While it didn’t work out for us, it did for The Village Network. There were a number of generous bidders, perhaps none more generous than Don and Nadine Foster. The level of support — and volunteerism — the couple gives The Village Network is beyond belief. Wendi was able to make one purchase, but I cannot say what it is or how much because it is a Christmas present for someone. And, we had a wonderful meal featuring Certified Angus Beef tenderloin from Ken Bogucki and his staff at The Wooster Inn.
Todd Patterson provided entertainment throughout the night, singing songs from the different decades, and a DJ was playing songs from the various eras in-between. There was a moment when the DJ was playing Michael Jackson’s thriller when a couple of young men from The Village Network’s entrepreneurship program made their way out on the dance floor. Duper Pallotta saw, took off her Jacksonesque red-and-black leather jacket and put it on one of them. He was instantly transformed into Jackson’s character from the Thriller video. It was a wonderful moment.
Another highlight of the evening for me was getting to meet and talk to Troy Pascley, who oversees the entrepreneurship program. When Troy found out I was from the Boston area, he talked about some of his former teammates who went on to play college football at the University of Massachusetts. Turns out, Troy played at Louisville and caught passes from Teddy Bridgewater his senior year. The wide receiver standout from Alliance had a brief stint in the NFL, joining the San Francisco 49ers and, later, the New York Giants.
But, like I said, the evening was wonderful, except for one moment. A 15-year-old girl who had been sitting at our table got up to speak. She talked about how she was sexually abused from 5 years old until she was 14 years old and was at The Village Network because she was a “troublemaker.” The horrors this girl endured had many in tears. It wasn’t a pleasant moment, but as Paul Williams said, this is why The Village Network exists, to help the kids.
And, help kids, it does, along with their families. Rich said when he first arrived in 2012, the organization was helping 900 kids. Last year, they helped 6,000 clients. And, this does not happen without the support of people who attended Sweet Jubilation. At the end of the night, Paul told the crowd he needed $10,000 to fund the entrepreneurship program for another year. Within minutes he had it. How sweet it is.