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One Grand Gala

One family’s crusade to cure cancer puts the fun — and feast — into fund-raising

If you haven’t made an appointment to have your hair done, or if your favorite Tommy Bahama shirt or little black dress needs to go to the laundry, you had better hurry.
    There’s just one week left before the biggest party of the year: Rod ’n’ Reel’s annual Celebration of Life Gala.
    On Thursday, August 4, the Gala celebrates 30 years of bringing the community together for good food and good times for the good cause of raising money for the American Cancer Society.
    As revelers anticipate the bounty that is the Gala’s trademark, it’s all hands on deck at Rod ’n’ Reel as a team of chefs and kitchen staff prepare for the now-legendary mounds of local Chesapeake Bay seafood, buffets of internationally inspired cuisine and diet-busting desserts.
    With so much to choose from in every direction, you need a plan.
    Start with your arrival. Parking is limited so don’t waste your time trying to find a spot in the Rod ’n’ Reel parking lot. It fills up early, and Chesapeake Station next door is off limits to Gala partiers.
    Instead, get out of traffic as soon as you can, and ride the free shuttle from your car to the gate.
    Now, get ready to party.
    First stop is right inside the gate: champagne.
    Properly refreshed, take a minute to review the map handed to you as you walked in. That piece of paper is golden, especially for first-timers.
    Hungering for lobster? Check the map and get in line. You’ll also find directions to the beach, where grills are fired up for scallops, shrimp and steak.
    Head inside the restaurant for the main buffet tables, loaded with delicacies from to sushi to antipasto to roast beef.
    Don’t wait too late to find the sweets. Rod ’n’ Reel’s second floor houses an entire room dedicated to desserts. We have friends who make an early dash, preferring a multi-layered cake with mousse filling as their first course and lobster for dessert.
    As always, you’ll find plenty of liquid libations to wash it all down; the party grounds are dotted with open bars offering cocktails, wine and beer.
    You may choose to graze, nibbling a little here, a little there. Or fill a plate and settle in at a table inside or on the beach. Then foray out for seconds and sixths.
    When you’re sufficiently stuffed — or to make room for more — follow the map and your ears to four musical stages.
    “This is a spectacular, giant cocktail party, which we strive to improve upon in every aspect each year,” says Gerald Donovan, Gala host.
    The big goal, Donovan says, is “to eventually see cancer cured.”
    Thirty years ago, back in 1982, the first Gala raised $5,300 for the American Cancer Society. Over the years, the total has grown to more than $4 million.
    Those millions of dollars have helped pay for the research in cancer prevention and treatment, as well as patient programs and services here in Calvert County.
    The Donovans — Gerald, his wife Mary, brother Fred, their families and this year’s honorary co-chairs, meteorologist Doug Hill and sports magnate Ted Leonsis — invite you to join the party in memory of loved ones who lost their fight with the disease and to celebrate all those who have won the battle.
    So before leaving, make one more stop to float a luminary in honor of your loved ones touched by cancer. Luminaries are on sale outside the pool for $50.

Join the fight and the fun for $125 in advance; $150 at the gate. Purchase in advance at any Calvert County Community Bank of Tri-County branch, Rod ’n’ Reel Restaurant or online at www.RodNReelCancerGala.org.