Saratoga Casino and Raceway’s 8th Annual Make a Difference Event

Terry Lee from the Saratoga Hospital Foundation receiving their check from Rita Cox. Senior Vice President of Marketing for Saratoga Casino and Raceway

Terry Lee from the Saratoga Hospital Foundation receiving their check from Rita Cox. Senior Vice President of Marketing and External Affairs at Saratoga Casino and Raceway

On Tuesday night, over 150 guests attended Saratoga Casino and Raceway’s 8th Annual Make a Difference at Vapor Night Club, which presented 26 local charitable organizations with monetary donations totaling $100,000. Those donations contributed to an overall $250,000 provided for community support by the casino in 2012. The event kicked off with a cocktail hour and spotted in the crowd were Jim LaVigne and Mary Gavin from Saratoga Sponsor-A-Scholar, Brian and Heather Straughter and Natalie Sillery from Jake’s Help from Heaven, Julie Johnson, Senator Elect Kathy Marchione, City of Saratoga Springs County Supervisors Matt Veitch and  Joanne Yepsen and Commissioner Michele Madigan. Also in attendance was Saratoga County Chamber President Todd Shimkus, Terry Lee from the Saratoga Hospital Foundation, Julie Hoxsie from Saratoga EOC, Michelle Larkin from Rebuilding Together Saratoga and Valerie Muratori and Heather Varney from Saratoga Bridges.

At 6:30 p.m. the presentation began with opening remarks provided by Skip Carlson, Vice President of External Affairs at Saratoga Casino and Raceway. “In this economy, it is increasingly more difficult to obtain the monetary support that so many non-profit agencies need to reach their bottom line,” said Carlson. “This event serves as a reinforcement of the belief that these organizations must never give up on their mission.”

This year’s host, Benita Zahn, of News Channel 13 read a proclamation from Mayor Scott Johnson in his absence which expressed appreciation for the ongoing support offered by Saratoga Casino and Raceway in the 70 years it has been part of the community.

While it is perhaps best known as a widely popular entertainment venue, the Casino and Raceway has always been very active in many charitable programs and events throughout Saratoga and the Capital Region,” it read. “Over the years, their dedicated officials and staff have donated more than $2 million to over 1,000 not-for-profit organizations. This year’s event will continue the tradition providing a total of $100,000 to 26 recipients.

Zahn then began presenting the checks. The selected host each year is given the opportunity to allocate $2,500 for the organization(s) of their choice. Zahn’s selections for 2012 were Building on Love and the YWCA of the Greater Capital Region, each receiving $1,250.

Since its official inception in 2006, the annual Make a Difference event has presented $715,000 to local organizations, and over $2 million in monetary, sponsorship and in-kind donations have been made by Saratoga Casino and Raceway since opening in 2004.

“We understand the importance of continued support for local organizations that make a difference in our community,” said Jamie Hartman, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. “Our contributions ensure that the programs provided by these organizations can continue to benefit our employees, families, friends and neighbors. We look forward to continuing the Make a Difference tradition.”

Some of the other recipients on Tuesday night included Jake’s Help From Heaven which received $2,500, the Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council, Inc. and the Saratoga Hospital Foundation which both received $10,000 and the Franklin Community Center, Inc. and Saratoga P.L.A.N. which both received $5,000.


The Holiday Gala at the Lakehouse for the Saratoga Springs History Museum

It was a holiday gala Lake House style at Canfield Casino for the Saratoga Springs History Museum on Friday night. The rainy weather did nothing to deter guests from this special event that recreates the excitement of the great lake houses of Saratoga Springs’ past that were located on Saratoga Lake and Lake Lonely. Upon check in guests were handed a pile of casino chips to be wagered at betting tables set up and seats at the tables were full all night. We spotted John Hendrickson and Marylou Whitney and Julie Bonacio chatting with friends and a steady stream of well dressed revelers in their holiday best gave full attention to the silent auction items. Ed and Maureen Lewi were spotted catching up with friends and holiday plans seemed to be the talk of the evening.

While the party was getting underway guests also took the opportunity to explore the museum, which is located in the Canfield Casino and tells the story of Saratoga Springs from its beginnings to modern day. Founded in 1883 as the Saratoga Historical Society, the museum features three floors of exhibits as well as dynamic programs throughout the year. We spoke to museum Board Member Ken Hoskins, there with wife Cindy Lunsford, about the event. “What’s interesting to see is how much more life the museum has now, everyone has been working really hard to make the museum more visible and it’s great how far we’ve come in the last few years.”

Before guests sat down to a delicious dinner from Longfellow’sMichael and Marlene Okby spoke to the museum supporters and told everyone “We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t believe in the museum”. They went on to give a special thanks to John Hendrickson and Marylou Whitney, saying the “building wouldn’t be what it is today without them”.

We got a chance to chat with Kate Jarosh, museum Treasurer and the gala committee chair about the successful evening. “This event is the largest that we have had to date, the most participants and attendees, I’m completely thrilled with it. It’s so important for the museum. We need to be able to continue to tell the story, to continue to take care of all that makes Saratoga special, which is our history. The generosity tonight is humbling and I really appreciate everyone’s support.”

Spirits were certainly merry and bright as the Karen Lawrence Band took the stage and guests hit the dance floor to celebrate the museum and our city’s incredible history. There are big things in store for the museum, and plans are already underway for their new exhibit opening early this summer for the 150th Celebration, the Tattlers can’t wait to check it out!

The Flower and Fruit Mission Snow Ball

The weather outside might have been frigid Saturday night, but inside the Hall of Springs it was positively balmy for the Fruit and Flower Mission Snow Ball benefit. The theme this year was “South Beach” and the Hall of Springs was decked out in gorgeous Miami style with huge white palm trees flanking the entrance. Inside the hall guests were sporting fun South Beach inspired styles, like event Co-Chair Tina Nigro who looked stunning in a tan beaded mini dress with a feathered fringe, absolutely perfect for the evening.

We also bumped into the evening’s other Co-Chair, Clover Schwartz, who told us about the event. “I’m very excited about tonight, the fundraiser is about women’s health which I’ve worked in for the last six years as a nurse. All of the money we are raising is going toward the Saratoga Hospital maternity ward, to help support the great group of nurses and doctors there.”

The Fruit and Flower Mission has been providing support and services to expectant Saratoga mothers and their babies since 1904. The volunteers of this organization conduct benefits throughout the year to support the William J. Hickey Women’s Services Unit of Saratoga Hospital and their efforts have resulted in significant donations of state-of-the-art equipment and educational resources.

The Tattlers spotted Marylou Whitney, who looked beautiful, there with husband John Hendrickson chatting with a group of friends at their table. Also in attendance we saw Mayor Scott Johnson and wife Julie, Mary Gavin and Jim LaVigne, Michele Funiciello, Colleen and Skip Carlson, Ron and Sarah Ireland, Mylea Aldrich, Marcia and Jerry MacDonald, Allison Meyers, Terry Lee, Julie and Marcus Fuller, Dr. Amy Knoeller, Susan and Jeffrey Halstead, and Angelo and Kate Calbone.

Fine Affairs was responsible for the incredibly beautiful decorations, including a chic all white lounge area that fit the theme perfectly and was a hotspot for guests all night. Flowers by Posie Peddler provided the most elegant of accents. After the cocktail hour guests sampled dishes from a South Beach themed menu, part of a delicious dinner put on by the always flawless Mazzone Hospitality. The Cubano sandwiches were a huge hit, and guests also enjoyed sophisticated small bites like fig crostini.

After dinner Grand Central Station took center stage to get the crowd going, and a special salsa performance by Johnny and Diane Martinez from Tango Fusion heated up the evening. We spotted Lisa Noonan and Barbara Ferraro, who looked dazzling in red, getting into the South Beach spirit and the dance floor was packed with Fruit and Flower Mission supporters in no time. The Tattlers had a fantastic time, and just loved the South Beach theme, we can’t wait to see what this fantastic group of women will think of for their next soiree!