This weekend, I got to attend the 10th annual AFCEA Bethesda charity ball to benefit the Children's Inn at the National Institute of Health. Held at the increasingly infamous Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C., a wonderful hotel that has become notorious because of former New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer's escapades. (Shockingly, there were no jokes referencing the former NY governor. There was a lot of talk about people visiting room 871. Apparently the numbers keep disappearing as people take them for... well, who knows.)
All that aside, the Children's Inn gala is one of the better events of the year. Not only is it well organized with dinner, after-dinner dancing and charity games, and an auction, but the cause is remarkable. For those of you who don't know about it, the Children's Inn is similar to the Ronald MacDonald houses -- they are a place where families can stay near the hospital and have as normal of a life as is possible. Each year, the gala features one of the Inn's families who talks about life at the Inn. It is always one of the highlights of the evening, but this year's kid was particularly memorable because it was a precious 10-year-old, Allen. The boy has a genetic disease that results in tumors to form on his spinal column. Yet he was... well, just incredible. He was absolutely ecstatic about getting Shirley Temples to drink and when his mother introduced him as a 9-year-old, he quickly tapped her and whispered , "I'm 10, Mom." In fact, it was his birthday Saturday, so all 700-plus people sang Allen the most wonderful version of Happy Birthday that I have heard.
One of the most delightful moments was when Allen's mother was saying how the Inn feels "almost like home," and Allen was by her side shaking his head. Clearly, it isn't home, but... the Inn is undoubtedly a better alternative then anything else out there for these families. Allen also did something of a runway twirl when his mother talked about how thrilled he was that he got to wear his fancy clothes.
AFCEA Bethesda raised at last $475,000 for the Inn Saturday. Since it costs $93-a-night to host a family, that is more than 5,107 nights. And, after meeting Allen, it seems like a very good investment.
Another highlight is the live auction. They always have a number of interesting items, but the most sentimental items are these quilts that are made by the children of the Inn. Both of them went for about $15,000.
If you want to donate to the Children's Inn at NIH, there are all kinds of ways to help. The Inn has all the information here.
I've posted our photos here... and/or see the slideshow above.
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