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Volume 15, Issue 30 ~ July 26 - August 1, 2007

Putting the FUN in Fundraising

Two traditional feasts give guests a good time and bring bounty to local charities

By Margaret Tearman, Bay Weekly Staff Writer

Good will and satisfaction in giving abound in Bay Country at two of Maryland’s biggest parties and most profitable fundraisers: Annapolis Rotary Club’s 62nd Crab Feast and the 26th annual Cancer Crusade Celebration of Life Gala at the Rod ’n’ Reel Restaurant.

Both events are traditions based on abundance and over-the-top feasting.

Both attract huge crowds and serve generous portions with abundant return to the community, one in Anne Arundel County and one in Calvert County.

Heaping Plates Feed Fight Against Cancer

The Chesapeake Bay shimmers in the background as thousands eat and drink to benefit the American Cancer Society at the 26th Annual Celebration for Life Gala, hosted by Gerald, Fred and Mary Donovan at the family restaurant Rod ’n’ Reel in Chesapeake Beach.

The Donovan brothers held the first fundraiser 25 years ago in honor of their father, who died of lung cancer. The party has grown with each passing year into one of Maryland’s most profitable benefits, having raised more than $3 million for the American Cancer Society.

“The first year we raised $5,300,” Donovan says. “Twenty-five years later, I expect we’re reaching a plateau. I don’t know if we’re there yet, but I expect we’re close.”

Last year’s celebration raised $467,500.

A summer tradition in Calvert County, the Gala is always held on the first Thursday in August.

“We wanted to make it an annual event,” Donovan says. “In the beginning we were very careful to not pick a date conflicting with other events. We chose Thursday because we know, being in the restaurant business, the closer to the weekend, the more people are likely to go out.

“Now we have folks who plan their family vacations around it,” Donovan says. “We have folks that bring their entire extended family, and some who never miss it.”

Attendance this year is up by way of an unexpected source: the entertainers. Oldies show band The Famous Hubcaps will shake, rattle and roll, and bring along their friends.

“We’re getting calls from West Virginia, Delaware, from people that wouldn’t normally be coming to the Gala who are coming this year because they’re big fans,” Donovan says.

No matter where they come from, if it’s their first time or their 26th time, everyone will leave with a full belly.

The Gala is renowned for the very best eats and drinks. Lobster, shrimp and oysters are always on the menu. Tables sag from the weight of so much food. Last year, guests ate 1,200 pounds of Maine lobster, 300 pounds of lobster tail and 1,000 pounds of shrimp.

This year, alongside the traditional offerings, Executive Chef William Bednar is cooking up some new Italian-inspired dishes, including bruschetta, antipasto and a variety of different deserts. 

Chef William is also cooking up a surprise.

“Last year’s dessert table featured fancy food-art centerpieces,” says Orhan Soysal, chief operating officer at Chesapeake Beach Resort and Spa. “This year, we’ve kicked it up a notch. Chef William has hooked up with James Parker from Veggie Art, and Parker is bringing some very special guests. It’s a surprise. But we will tell you they are pretty famous people from the Food TV network.”

All that good food will be shared by good people for a common cause: finding a cure for cancer.

Helping boost the goal each year is an honorary chair, who “brings a new twist, new suggestions and new people into the mix,” Donovan says. “They bring the folks they do business with, their family and their friends.”

This year’s honorary chairs are Jeannie and Phillip Stone, owners of Stoney’s Seafood houses. Jeannie’s mother, she says, “died of breast cancer when I was young. I can count so many people who have been affected by this horrible disease.” A volunteer at the Gala in the late 1980s, she says she “never dreamed we would be bestowed such a wonderful task as chairing this meaningful event.” 

“We’re on our way to a really big year. We already have raised close to $300,000 just in sponsorships,” Donovan says. “We’re grateful for what any individual or company can give.”


The Gala Cause

Forty percent of those growing thousands of dollars stay in Calvert County, invested by the American Cancer Society into community programs.

“While undergoing chemo, women sometimes feel their appearance has changed, and they don’t always feel good about it,” says Dawn Ward, American Cancer Society spokesperson.

The Look Good … Feel Better program, offered through Calvert Memorial Hospital, helps women diagnosed with cancer learn from licensed cosmetologists how to take care of their nails, hair and skin while undergoing chemotherapy.

Calvert Memorial Hospital also received a $10,000 grant from the American Cancer society for its KeepWell Kids program. “This program is a collaborative effort between Calvert Memorial Hospital, the Calvert County Board of Education and the Maryland Cooperative Extension to educate school age children and their families on healthy lifestyle behaviors,” explains Kasia Sweeney, hospital spokeswoman. “It includes an educational newsletter sent home from school three times next year and educational bulletin boards to encourage classroom discussion on nutrition and fitness.”

The American Cancer Society is also working with Calvert schools to offer college scholarships to high school graduates who are also survivors of childhood cancer.

Reach to Recovery is another American Cancer Society program active in Calvert. A mentoring program, it matches breast cancer survivors with newly diagnosed patients. These volunteer mentors walk with the newly diagnosed through treatment and recovery.

Road to Recovery, still under development in the county, will provide free transportation to cancer patients to and from their treatment. In Baltimore, Hope Lodge is open to Calvert cancer patients who must travel north for treatment. In it they have a place to stay while in treatment, a home away from home, free of charge.

This year, the American Cancer Society also awarded $11 million in grants for cancer research to Maryland institutions, including the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins Institute.

“We have sponsors who have survived cancer who were sponsoring before they were diagnosed,” Donovan says. “Now they’ve overcome the disease or are in remission, and they are still sponsors. So it really is a celebration of life.

“It’s a wonderful night. It’s a time to see old friends and renew conversations with people you haven’t seen for a year or two, and a chance to make new friends.”

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Feasting on the Bay’s Bounty for Anne Arundel Charities

Crabs piled high in Navy Stadium marks another summer tradition as the Annapolis Rotary Club pulls out all the pickers for its 62nd annual Crab Feast. 

“Only in Annapolis can you help support the community by eating as many crabs as you can,” says Crab Feast chairman Tom Bolander.

Annapolis’ biggest summer event, the feast is the Annapolis Rotary Club’s greatest annual fundraiser. In 1946, the first crab feast raised $150. Last year’s feast raised $42,500. More than $1 million has been awarded over the past 62 years.

That’s a lot of goodwill.

And a lot of good food.

All you can eat of Maryland’s bounty: heaps of jumbo Number One steamed crabs, Maryland vegetable crab soup, sweet Maryland corn on the cob, beef barbecue sandwiches, hot dogs, coleslaw, draft beer and sodas. 

The specifics are daunting. Last year’s feast served a record 438 bushels of crab. On the side are 3,400 ears of corn, 130 gallons of crab soup, 1,800 hot dogs, 150 pounds of beef barbecue and hundreds of gallons of soft drinks and beer. All is consumed in just three hours.

“Not only are all the proceeds donated to the community,” Bolander says, “all of the non-crab-related menu items are donated by Adam’s the Place for Ribs.”

This year feasters will have a distraction while picking crustaceans: A film crew from Maryland Public Television will be filming crab dissection for its upcoming documentary, “Eating Crabs Maryland Style.” For all you stylized pickers, this will be your chance for television stardom.

The feast is traditionally held on the first Friday of August. Every year, that is, except for one, four years ago, when the stadium was undergoing construction. That year, the feast was moved to September. The first four crab feasts were held in the Armory. In 1962, it was moved to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, where it has been every year since.

It is unofficially the largest crab feast in the world. “We’re not in the Guinness Book of World Records,” Bolander says. “Not yet anyway.”

If a full belly and satisfied taste buds aren’t enough to remember the

Above: Music Works; middle left: Hospice of the Chesapeake

Middle right: Family and Children’s services; below: Therapeutic Riding

day, grab a souvenir: Crab Feast T-shirts and baked goods are on sale. And if all that crab has you dreaming of still more, bring home a copy of the Annapolis Rotary’s own Crab Feast Mania cookbook, now in its eighth printing, with over 250 crab recipes, including 21 just for crab cakes.

Many Good Causes

All that good eating benefits the Anne Arundel community through grants supporting cultural arts, museums, seniors, the handicapped, underprivileged children and adults. At last year’s crab feast, $42,500 benefited 15 organizations. Application for this year’s bounty open January 1, 2008, through March 5, 2008; grants will be awarded in April and May.

At Maryland Therapeutic Riding, says executive director Beverly Willard, “the money we received is being used for our new indoor arena and specifically to help us defray the costs of the lighting. The new indoor arena will allow us to have a year-round program.”

To Anne Arundel Abuse Counseling Center for Family and Children’s Services of Central Maryland, says district director Diana Shoup, “Grant funds are exceedingly important. All non-profits are facing increasing difficulty in funding. Rotary providing this kind of fundraiser and distributing it so widely is immensely helpful.”

Arundel Lodge provides psychiatric rehabilitation to people with serious mental illness. It’s $3,000 grant will be spent to renovate a residential facility, remodeling two bathrooms to be handicapped accessible, according to executive director Mike Drummond.

Annapolis Elementary School used its $4,500 grant to purchase two Smart Boards. “These are two 71-inch white boards used to project computer images,” explains school principal Sue Meyers. “They work like huge touch screens and help excite student to learn. Today schools have to compete with video games. The Smart Boards are hands-on technology.”

Hospice of the Chesapeake invested Annapolis Rotary Club’s $5,000 grant in general programs and services for those who cannot afford to pay for hospice care or bereavement counseling, according to spokeswoman Dana Disborough.

Annapolis Chorale Group supported its music education and outreach program, MusicWorks, with Rotary’s $4,000 grant. “Arts programs are starting to disappear from our schools, and we feel music is important for development and growth,” says Katherine Hilton, director of marketing and development. “MusicWorks takes music into schools.”

On any given day, approximately 200 children are in foster care in Anne Arundel County. Anne Arundel County CASA advocates for these children while they’re in the court system. CASA’s $4,500 grant recruited and trained 21 new court-appointed special advocates.

“These volunteers must undergo an intensive 35-hour training course and pass through a screening process,” says CASA director Rebecca Julian. “They become the one consistent person in the child’s life. They stick with the child until their case closes — whether the child is returned home or adopted.  Rotary has been amazing with their support.  They are real champions for our program.”

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