Friday, May 15, 2009

Goals for Gaza Add Image
Gaza's kids are suffering a hideous man-created misery and we decided to dedicate our resources this year to that area in particular. We have several sites ready to go. We just needed the money. It was time for a big fundraiser.

Rough Start
It had been three years since we had held our last 'annual' big fundraiser. So, we had reason to be a bit nervous this year about doing something even bigger. Well, it was certainly fancier! (The ACE Conference Center was gorgeous and the catering promised to be exceptional.) Then, for various reasons, we didn't get a start on preparations until February. The ticket price we were charging was more than 3 times what we had charged in the past and in this economy, we wondered if anyone would even show up.

Only three days before the event, we realized that the sound equipment that we had was completely insufficient, which could have been a disaster since the highlight of the evening was going to be a musical performance by the renowned Lebanese singer, May Nasr.

Dave Kovalcik to the Rescue
We're blessed in a lot of ways. Having Karen Kovalcik on our board this year is, to say the least, one of those blessings. It was actually she who did all the leg work to secure the ACE Center for our event and that involved a lot of running around to other venues to choose one that was right for us. But when the whole issue with the sound system popped up, it was Karen who stepped in and asked her husband, Dave, to put the assets of his audio-visual company at our disposal. A very generous man and, more importantly, one to never refuse his wife, Dave pretty much hooked us up with a state of the art set up with a sound crew to go with it! What he gave us at no cost was easily worth $8,000. Pictured to the right are John Boberick and Dan O'Hare, our awesome A-V crew that donated their time for us that evening.

The Big Day Arrived

We all agree that having our fundraiser at the ACE made it, by far, the easiest event we've ever done before. And this year in particular, that was crucial. Our board is small to begin with and all of us have full time jobs elsewhere. But our volunteer capacity was especially limited this year for each of us. Sonia has the best reason for limited volunteer time. She and Samer are having a baby. Wohooooo! Linda had the worst reason: knee replacement surgery that didn't go quite as planned. We're happy to report that she's out of the woods right now. But she had a pretty rough go for a long while. Still, she braved the pain and stuck it out for the entire evening. I should add that our event was held on her birthday. Of course, we embarrassed her with a song, not once, but twice. But I'll get to that in a bit. The best part is that the place filled up. People came, hung up their coats, and began to mingle over refreshments.

Silent Auction and Raffle
While people mingled during the cocktail hour, they were free to roam and buy from our sales tables or bid on silent auction items.

We had a lovely auction display this year, full of donated items and others purchased from overseas. Sahara Grill, Tequilla Joe's, Mediterranean Cafe, and Alyan's all donated dinner-for-two gift certificates. Abeer Karzoun gave us beautiful Italian home decorations, including hand-blown glass vases, intricately embroidered curtains, pillows, and more worth at least $1,200. Evalyn Haas donated two her late husband's paintings. We had hookas and jewelry. Embroidered thobes. Hanan Urick and Maysoon Zayid donated several items that were much sought after, including a large mirror with an embroidered frame. Lisa Volta donated several framed pictures/paintings.

A Series of Fortunate Events
Sonia was our emcee and Jacqueline Berry started with opening remarks. With her natural dry British humor, Jacqueline was the perfect one of us to kick off the evening. She was the first to embarrass Linda and invite eveyone to join in singing happy birthday.

A couple of presentations followed. JC Boushh, a playground expert who traveled this summer to Lebanon to install two of our playgrounds, talked about the importance of play. He taught us a few things about the meaning of play. But more importantly, he showed us the sad consequences of denying play to children. JC's presentation was followed by susie, who talked about what it means to be a child living under occupation and reminded us all why were there.
Several awards were given to recognize individuals and organizations who gave given a great deal of themselves to the cause of justice in Palestine. They include: Anan Zahr, a former member of PfP's board who has been an activist and great supporter of various Palestinian organizations over the past 30 years. Cy and Lois Swartz, known as "Bubbes and Zaydes"(Grandmothers and Grandfathers in Yiddish), who have held a weekly vigil of protest outside of the Israeli Consulate in Philadelphia every Friday without fail for the past 7 years. They were sure to point out that they've missed only one Friday due to severe snow. The International Action Center was also recognized for their unwavering and active support of Palestine through a multitude of outlets, including protests, vigils, teach in, and more. Berta Joubert-Ceci was there to accept on behalf of the IAC. Finally, JC Boushh was also recognized for his committment to upholding the Right to Play and for volunteering his time to build playgrounds for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon last summer.

Dinner of course, had already been served, but unfortunately, we didnt' get any pictures of that. You'll have to take our word for it that it was super delicious!

Throughout the evening, raffle tickets were being sold by an awesome young trio: Natalie Hackett, Grace Kovalcik, and Lucy Kovalcik. Somehow, Charlie Kovalcik found his way on stage at the end to take credit with the girls for several hundred dollars in raffle sales. We think it was just to hang with the cute girls and not really the credit for sales. Interestingly, nearly all of the raffle prizes went to one table, which just happened [ahem] to be Sonia's family. We think they slipped Charlie a few bucks behind stage.

We saved the best for last, of course. Linda introduced her friend and our gues of honor, May Nasr. To say the least, her voice is a divine gift. May sang Lebanese and Palestinian songs that mesmerized us all, even those who do not speak the language.

Everyone who bid on silent auction items picked up their wins on the way out. Thanks to Linda's superb organizational skills, it went off without a hitch. By evening end, we had raised well over $17,000 and still counting. We're off to Gaza this summer to build a couple of playgrounds and we'll keep you posted, of course.

In the meantime, a million thanks to everyone to supported us. If you'd like to make a contribution, please do so from our website at

With Love,

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