Derby gala is JDRF’s biggest to date

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 206 views 

BENTONVILLE — The rolling hills surrounding Horton Farms and the sweet but acrid smell of bourbon swirling in tasting glasses created that almost-Kentucky Derby feel.

But when the racing season’s marquee contest was over, the fun at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Run for the Roses gala was just getting started.

The sixth annual affair raised a record $261,000, mostly from the sale of live auction items, “Fund a Cure” pledges of $100 or more and a commitment from the gala’s presenting sponsor, The Hershey Co. More than 450 people attended, many of them dressed head-to-toe in derby attire: seersucker and white or navy pants and blazers for the men; bright-colored cocktail dresses and an endless supply of unforgettable hats for the women.

“People were excited to do something different,” said Andi Philley, branch manager for JDRF. “[Horton Farms] was an exciting venue unlike what they’re used to.”

The event kicked off at 4 p.m. with a VIP reception and bourbon-tasting for sponsors in Horton Farms’ Sierra Retreat. The rest of the partygoers went straight to the Sierra Grand Hall for cocktails, a long look at the gala’s extensive silent auction and music by Tim Meitzen. They put their pens down at derby time, taking a couple of minutes — no more — to watch the race on several 60-inch televisions and a big, drop-down video screen. Many picked their own winners from the Kentucky Derby's official program, Then they raced each other back to check their bids.

Organizers made $4,000-plus the easy way: not with a cake walk but a cupcake raffle. Guests paid $25 for numbered cupcakes, each a 1-in-200 chance to win one of three stones stones and a $2,000 gift card for a custom setting from Underwood’s Fine Jewelers.

Dinner was Southern-fried boneless chicken breast and applewood bacon-wrapped filet served in a decorated tented structure behind the barn. Neile Jones and Brad Reed emceed the event and recognized Jeanne Cashman as the gala chairman and Car-Mart CEO as the corporate honoree. Sophia Bouanane received $1,000 as winner of the women’s hat contest; Stephanie Daniel took second place, then promptly gave her $200 back as a donation to the foundation.

The live auction item that brought the most dough was a full-page ad in Dash! magazine that brought $31,000. Two trips brought about $7,000 each: airfare and a weeklong stay in a five-bedroom, five bath home in Isla Morada, Fla., in the Florida Keys, and a stay in an eight-bedroom Renaissance-style castle, Chateau de Keragnat, in France.