Festival benefits Down Syndrome Organization

The Down Syndrome Organization of Southern Nevada held its 27th annual Festival of Trees and Lights gala Nov. 20 at the South Point.

The event actually began two days before the gala, allowing the public to view the decorated trees and place bids on the trees. Also, children attending with their parents could engage in various activities such as crafts and entertainment.

The gala raised funds to provide needed programs and services such as speech and music therapy and many medical and educational programs. The event was aglow with decorated Christmas trees, and beneath the trees were numerous gifts such as bikes, vacations, TVs, airline tickets, gift certificates, popular wines and, of course, toys and more toys.

A silent auction was conducted for each tree and the accompanying gifts. Wreaths and baskets and Hanukkah displays were also up for bid. Kids were leading their parents to their favorite trees, such as the very popular “Star Wars” tree decorated by Sandy Windom and daughter Lisa McAnallen.

Among the 27 beautifully decorated trees were “Winter Elegance,” “Santa Is Coming to Town,” “Peace on Earth,” “Bon Appetit,” “Disney,” “All That Glitters Is Gold,” “Hollywood Black Tie,” “American Girl,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Cowboy Christmas,” “Tinseltown Glitz” and “Call for Reservations.”

The Las Vegas High School Choir under the direction of Brynn Hardy entertained during the reception.

Down Syndrome Organization supporters participating in the bidding were Sue and Paul Lowden, Gloria and Mark Fine, Buffie and Tom Kerestesi, Nancy and Bob Joslin, Sue and Barry Becker, Fran Fine, Linda Smith, Lieuchi and Jeffrey Fine, Patricia and Richard Wright, Jonathan Fine, Jennifer Windom and Dennis Lam.

Guests were led to the dining room by bagpipe major Andrew Fusco and drum major Ken Misch, heading the Desert Skye Pipes and Drums. More entertainment was provided by the Down Syndrome Organization’s singing adult social group, “The Cool 21s.” Dinner music was by Ken McClure.

Down Syndrome Organization board chairman Sue Covey welcomed all of the guests and introduced board members James Holmquist, Debbie Avery, Frank Tiberi, David Abraham Jr., Joseph Calarco and Sandy Windom. Deann Cline is director of development and Kim Horibe is the office coordinator. Mistress of ceremonies was KTNV-TV, Channel 13, news anchor Beth Fisher.

The gala’s Inspirational Award went to supportive families. Honored were Erin and Rodney Truman, Kristen and Paul Truman, Sharla and Richard Layton; Gail and Ray Nelson; and Lori and Blake Burr and Cynthia and Chris Burr. The Community Impact Award was given to NV Energy, represented by senior vice president Pat Egan. The Volunteers of the Year were Marie and Bill Smith.

South Point executive chef Christopher Johns and catering manager Rich Niederman presented passed canapes and a lovely three-course dinner as well as a special menu for the kids.

The live auction was conducted by Richard Rehn and featured three extraordinary Christmas trees. “The NutCracker” by Ken Misch sold for $5,000. Kirsty Willden’s tree, “In Memory of dog BoBo,” went for $8,000 plus another $2,000 donation in BoBo’s name. “Simplify the Season” by Truline Trucking went for a bid of $10,000. All three trees included fabulous gifts.

Other guests included Kelly and Brian Iriye, Julie Zito, Karen Calarco and Wesley Robertson. The premier sponsor of the Festival of Trees and Lights was Robyn and Brad Englert of Ideal Supply Company.

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