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‘Together’ Gala a Big Hit First Time Out

When you wish upon a star--a red star, that is--you just may find yourself jetting to the Soviet Union on Aeroflot Airlines for dinner with Moscow Mayor Gavril Popov.

That wish was open to bids at Saturday’s first “Coming Together,” at the Hyatt Regency La Jolla, to benefit the Make-a-Wish Foundation of San Diego and North County’s Palomar Family YMCA.

The dinner with the Soviet Hizzoner netted $10,000 during a brief auction, limited to six choice items, that also saw bidding reach $20,000 for a deluxe Amazon cruise and $15,000 for another dinner-and-travel package to Auckland, New Zealand, for a repast to be hosted by perennial America’s Cup challenger Michael Fay.

Auction proceeds reached $52,600, a sum that pushed the party’s net above $100,000.

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About 550 guests attended the black-tie event. Committee members agreed with spokeswoman Joyce Wells, who said that the turnout and earnings were “pretty impressive for the first time out of the chute.”

Honorary chairman Marilyn Fletcher, who attended with her husband, banker Kim Fletcher, said, “It’s a miracle that a first-time event like this should come together so well, but we put our heads together, and we made it happen.”

Fletcher’s “we” comment refers to Sami Bandak, an Escondido baby stroller manufacturer who dreamed up “Coming Together” and planned what was, on the whole, a rather spectacular evening. Bandak’s original vision called for the party to be “the gala of the year” (a tall order given the number of events now on the annual calendar), with hopes of earning about $600,000, again a tall order because $100,000 is considered a success locally and only a handful of events exceed that figure to any degree.

But Bandak smiled enthusiastically through the evening as he watched “Coming Together” come together. It was a notably pretty party; just why decorators should be so inspired by the Hyatt’s Aventine Ballroom is open to question, but most recent events there have been handsome or better. Bandak enlisted the volunteer aid of professional decorators Richard Kaleh, Bruce DeArmond and Stoddard King to glamorize the room with a triple-tiered fountain (on which a chimp brought by another benefactor frolicked through the meal) and lush arrangements of roses and lavender blossoms perched above the tables on bamboo-legged tripods.

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The guest list, thanks to Bandak, included a fair percentage of North County notables, and, thanks to Fletcher, a more than generous sprinkling of Point Loma and La Jolla socialites. They gathered during the cocktail hour to inspect vignettes advertising the auction items, then dined on a lavish menu that included mushroom-and-lobster bisque, veal chops perigordine and berries piled into tulip-shaped nougat cookies.

“Happy children will be the result of this gala,” said Bandak shortly after the first guests arrived. “There are a lot of events in town, but I wanted one specifically to benefit kids. We can realize dreams for children; the Palomar Y has the biggest day-care center in the county, and some families who use it couldn’t go to work if we didn’t subsidize this program.”

Later, Bandak told the audience, “You are the stars these kids dream upon, and you’ve made a lot of dreams come true.”

A total of about 300 children spend time daily in one of Palomar YMCA’s seven day-care centers, and the institution underwrites costs for about 15% of participating families.

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Make-a-Wish Foundation board member Cate Roberts said that with her organization’s share of the profits, it will be able to grant its 300th wish since first waving its magic wand in 1982. The group attempts to satisfy the special wishes of San Diego County youngsters, under the age of 18, who suffer life-threatening illnesses. Among those cherished wishes to be funded with “Coming Together” proceeds will be a trip to Disney World for a 3-year-old leukemia victim and a visit with kid-idol Pee Wee Herman for another 3-year-old.

The hit of the evening was a performance by The Platters, the ever-popular singing group that made the record charts with such numbers as “You’ve Got the Magic Touch” more than 30 years ago and keeps up a continuous schedule of appearances today. The group took the stage before dinner just long enough to sing “Only You,” which, of course, congratulated the “Coming Together” guests for supporting the gala. The group gave a full concert later in the evening, following a stand-up comedy routine performed by Sinbad, an actor from the NBC situation comedy “A Different World.”

The guest list included Fran and Ken Golden, Rachel and Judson Grosvenor, Virginia and Jack Monday, emcee Denise Yamada, Doris and Dirk Broekema, Barbara Malone, Mary and Jack Goodall, Donis and Mack Lovett, Gail and Bob Lichter, Make-a-Wish President Jeff Wade, Tommi and Bob Adelizzi, Marie Bandak, Elaine and Murray Galinson, Berneice and Dempsey Copeland, Beege and Bud Gravette, Cathy and George Hunt, and Barbara and Norm Pressley.

About 1,200 guests attended at least one of the five events--two fashion luncheons, a champagne supper, a breakfast with Santa and a gala dinner-dance--on Friday and Saturday at the Inn at Rancho Bernardo, as part of the ninth annual Christmas Tree Lane benefit for the Boys and Girls Club of Escondido.

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By tradition, this blockbuster is the leading occasion of the season in Escondido.

According to Nancy Greene, who shared overall co-chair duties with Cindy Russell, the exhausting party schedule was expected to net roughly $90,000. The proceeds, as always, are earmarked to purchase and maintain buses used by the Boys and Girls Club, which provides activities so that children don’t have to go home to an empty house when the school day concludes. The club also provides before-school activities.

The committee tied a Valentine bow around the event by calling it “Romancing the Holidays,” a motif evident in the Victorian-style ballroom decor and the 15 professionally decorated trees that were raffled at Christmas Tree Lane’s five events. As always, the trees were the focus, and among the outstanding offerings was one titled “The Romance of Old California,” which was decorated with reproduction mission bells and hand-painted reproductions of the state’s missions.

The committee numbered more than 100 members, including Jean Stenstrom, Larry and Kae Watts, Ruth Mangrum, Susie Snow, Vicki Becker, Tina Ostrem, Michelle Fuller, Steve Russell, Shirley Baker, Mary Jo Ewing, Kay Byrne, Janice Eickhoff, Karen Portillo, Sandra Culbert, Susan Helps, Lorine Kral and Judy Kunsman.

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