Monday, September 23, 2013

Sparkle Speaks

Last Thursday night was the Sparkle Speaks gala to benefit Autism Speaks. It's Jacqueline Laurita's event that raises money and awareness of the spectrum disorder. It was a tricky tray event held at the Westmount Country Club in Woodland Park.

It just goes to show the power of social media. I follow Jacqueline on Twitter and Facebook. I don't KNOW her, although she does just live a few miles away. One night in late July, Jacqueline posted something on Twitter or Facebook about the gala. I saw it, checked out the website and saw we could be donors. Having worked with adults on the spectrum when I was a social worker in the 90's, and having quite a few friends with kids on the spectrum, it's a cause close to my heart. We ended up donating $625 toward a custom chandelier from our store, Shades of Soho. Had Jacqueline not posted about it to her social media accounts, I probably wouldn't have known about the event until I saw photos from it in 201 Magazine months down the road.

Of course being donors, we also wanted to support the event by being there. First thing- I had a dress I'd planned to wear that I'd decided on about a month prior to the event. It was perfectly fine when I first tried it on. I had left it hanging on my closet door for the past few weeks. It continued to look fine. All I know is that I went to put it on the night before just to make sure I had all the right undergarments and such, and when I put it on, it had a faint stain down the front. It was a satin-esque kind of fabric so it looks like when satin gets something wet on it. Like, if I turned it one way you couldn't really see it but if you looked at it another way, it seemed larger and more visible. I probably could've worn it but I just didn't feel comfortable going there with a stain before even walking in the door.

I have like eight other dresses I could've worn. But I wasn't in love with anything. Oddly enough, I have this dress that is all beaded, that I bought in Las Vegas in 2000. It's long and almost pageant-like. Slit up to there. I bought it to wear to a party at the Las Vegas Tanning Expo at the MGM Grand. I didn't know about the party and hadn't brought anything fancy enough to wear. I went to a boutique in the hotel and fell in love with this dress. I thought it got lost in our move in 2006. I've been annoyed about it ever since. BUT, one night over the summer I was in a frenzy of selling things on the Bergen County Moms Exchange on FB. I went to the attic to check this giant duffel bag that I thought just had t-shirts in it. I stuck my hand in the bottom and touched what felt like a garment bag. I started pulling and out came the garment bag with this Vegas dress and other sentimental items of clothing. I was FREAKING OUT. I couldn't believe I'd found my beloved items I thought were gone forever!!

Because this dress is beaded it really doesn't wrinkle. I have two other really nice dresses that were with it but one was BCBG jersey that got really wrinkled and a black Tahari that while it would've looked "nice" on, it really had no "wow" factor. Not like the beaded one. Plus, the gala was for Autism and the puzzle piece symbol is blue and I just kind of wanted to stay in the blue family. The beaded dress is like a grayish blue. AND the NAME of the gala IS "Sparkle Speaks" so the sparkle of my dress would be totally appropriate. I totally was afraid it might be "too much"- just too much everything. I've been to some of these events where there were people in jeans and people in ball gowns. I just pushed my fear of being overdressed out of my mind because I really didn't have any other viable options. Everything else was wrinkled! Or I didn't have the right undergarments.

My only real issue was that I did buy it pre-child in the year 2000. How was I getting into it? It has NO give whatsoever. I had to run to Loehmanns and buy some kind of undergear to help get and stay in it. I looked good, so I'm told...I just couldn't breathe the entire night. Whatever. Beauty is pain or something like that. Isn't that what Frenchy said to Sandy when she tried to pierce her ear in Grease??

Tickets cost $100/pp with a $10 per ticket fee for booking the tickets online. I'd never been to the Westmount before. It's really beautiful. I didn't see the whole place. Apparently we were in the smaller room. But it has a great deck outside with breathtaking views. The cocktail hour room has a very nice feel to it. It also has beautiful decks outside of it. I could definitely see having a gorgeous wedding there. The gala was open bar with top shelf liquor and I could be wrong but I'm pretty sure the Westmount is known for having their own cool signature drinks. As in- I don't think they came up with these drinks specifically for the event. I think they offer them as part of a drink package. It was definitely more interesting than just going up for my regular Malibu Bay Breeze. They had a white sangria, a red sangria, white cosmo and a bunch of other signature mixed drinks. I haven't seen that before, where the venue had their own cocktails, and I've been to a lot of weddings, charity events, etc. I've seen where there's been one or two signature cocktails make specifically for an event but not a whole board of different drinks they do regularly. If you're not a wine or beer drinker, having all these choices makes it fun.

We missed a lot of the cocktail hour. There was a lot of traffic and the event started at 6p. That's a rough time to be going anywhere in northern Jersey. I was too busy checking out the prizes to eat and it was much easier to carry around a drink than a plate. It was mostly antipasto stuff that looks really nice but that I don't eat. I thought dinner was really good. It was steak and chicken with mashed potatoes and different color string beans. I don't know if they have a correct name and since they are such a small part of the evening, I'm not googling the many kinds of string beans there might be. Dessert was right up my alley- it was a strawberry & whipped cream angel food cake kind of thing. DCS Chocolate did the favors. They were chocolate covered graham crackers and chocolate covered pretzels. Can't go wrong with those!

Jacqueline spoke when we sat down to eat. It was a very emotional moment for her and I think it made everyone else emotional as well. It's hard not to get emotional when you have a child or children close in age to her son Nicholas. Whether or not your child is on the spectrum or not, just hearing a mother speak about the struggles, the wins, the good and the bad, you put yourself in her place and it's enough to bring tears to anyone's eyes. I also think with Jacqueline, she's very open, engaging, and approachable. It's easy to relate to her. Because strip down all the Real Housewives drama, the fancy homes, cars, and what you have a mother just trying to help her son be everything he can be.

PS. She's pretty on TV, but she's really pretty and SO tiny in person. Her hair and make-up were flawless. And her rack is spectacular (as showcased in this form fitting color-block dress).

As far as the tricky tray part, there were levels and the tickets corresponded with the levels. Green was the lowest level, then red, then yellow, and then there were white grand prize ones for trips. It was a little confusing because there were classes as prizes- music therapy, gym classes, yoga, etc but the signage didn't say where these places were located. There were a lot of baskets at the green level- shirts, toys, etc. But it was difficult to figure out what they were or where they came from. I actually one a red level prize, which were children's toy type things but there was a set of puzzle piece earrings with them. The name of the place sounds like a boutique but I was confused at what kind of business they actually are.

When the prizes were being called, they just yelled out the numbers in rapid succession. Yes, businesses donate for the good of the cause of course, but also there is a recognition factor. You do want people to know what they're getting and from where. I've been to many tricky tray events and usually the item and where it came from is read off before the number is called. They picked the numbers prior to starting to call them out. Because all the numbers were taped to the items. So it would seem like they had the time to at least shout out what the item is and who donated it. It also ups the excitement factor, knowing what you're getting! When my number was called, I didn't even know what I won until I ran up there like I was on the Price Is Right!

There were definitely a lot of prizes so people really were able to get a chance to win. I think it's a cause close to a lot of people, especially in NJ where the numbers of spectrum diagnoses just keep getting higher. I'm sure getting donations wasn't too difficult. We would definitely donate again and attend. My friend Melissa came with us so it wasn't just us with no one else to hang with. Two hometown friends were there as well so it made it more like a party than us just at an event.

If you need any information about autism, go here:

DCS Chocolates:

Westmount Country Club:

Scala (the company that made my dress):                                                                                       

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