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Hollywood-style gala helps make Y more accessible

February 12, 2007|by MARIE GILBERT

When Mark Hudson was a young boy, his mother barely earned enough money to make ends meet, let alone pay for quality child care.

"She was a single mom, working at minimum wage," the Hagerstown resident recalled. "She had no family support system, but she did have the YMCA."

Because of her financial situation, Hudson's mother was able to enroll her two sons in an after-school program offered by the local Y.

"It gave my mom a lot of peace of mind," he said. "And my brother and I loved it."

Today, Hudson is an adult with a family of his own. But he still considers the YMCA his family, too.

"I'll always be grateful," he said.

Hudson showed his gratitude Saturday night by attending the Hagerstown YMCA's annual fundraising gala.

The event at Four Points Sheraton is the organization's largest fundraiser, Executive Director Michael Flicek said.

Money from the gala, which this year marked its 21st anniversary, will be used to support the youth sponsorship program, and individual and family memberships, he said.

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"We want to be there for people who don't have the financial opportunities to join," he said. "If someone is not able to afford to be part of the Y, we want to help. That's what the YMCA is all about."

According to Flicek, more than 300 people attended the gala that was expected to raise about $35,000.

Last year, he said, about 570 children and about 400 adults received financial assistance, thanks to the businesses and individuals who support the Y's annual gala.

According to Barb McKee, chairperson for this year's gala, the event sold out about two weeks ago.

"That's a very good feeling," she said. "It shows how much the community cares, from businesses and county leadership to individuals."

McKee said the gala has raised almost $500,000 over the past 20 years.

"We're in our 21st year and continue to have great support from so many people," she said.

The theme for this year's gala was "Hollywood Nights," with posters from such popular movies as "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "The Gladiator" decorating the hallway.

The theme continued throughout the ballroom, with each table decorated with miniature replica Oscars, director's chairs and movie reels.

The evening included cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, dinner and dancing. The highlight of the evening was a chance to win a 2007 Mazda Miata MX-5.

"That's a very big part of the gala," McKee said. "You have a 1 in 200 chance of winning, and every person is hoping their ticket will be drawn."

This year's winners were Sam and Dana Wright of Hagerstown.

Other prizes during the evening included gift certificates from area businesses, a handmade comforter and tickets to see the Maryland Symphony Orchestra perform.

"It's a very exciting night," Flicek said. "The volunteers do a great job, from planning to decorating. And everyone has a great time. But it's all for a very good cause."

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