Tucson Giving: Poker should pack 'em in at benefit

2014-08-19T00:00:00Z 2014-08-19T09:30:28Z Tucson Giving: Poker should pack 'em in at benefitBy Loni Nannini Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

You only live twice, according to the late Ian Fleming, the creator of a certain British MI6 agent with the moniker 007, so the 150 active members of Angel Charity for Children are hoping that a full house will net a big pot for three local charities at the Suit & Tie event on Sept. 6 at the Tucson Country Club.

“We have adopted a James Bond theme for the event, and we are saying, ‘Suit and tie is not a dress code, it is an attitude,’ so you can wear what you want. We will not only have a poker tournament, but other casino games and a nightclub with dancing … it was a really good vibe last year, and we are trying to expand on that to raise funds to benefit local children,” said Michelle Brown, Angel Charity general chairwoman for 2014.

Since its inception in 1983, Angel Charity has raised more than $24 million to improve the lives of children in Pima County.

This year, the organization has pledged donations of $500,000 to the Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona and $250,000 to Aviva Children’s Services. Both donations will be used to fund capital projects.

“Angel’s Place for Girls” will provide an 11,000-square-foot central space for meetings and activities at the planned Girl Scout Leadership Campus. The project for Aviva Children’s Services is an Outdoor Visitation Center that will provide children and parents with opportunities for supervised visitation in a park-like setting.

An additional gift of $100,000 will expand staffing at El Grupo Youth Cycling, which empowers young people by teaching fitness through biking.

Brown admits that the pledges totaling $850,000 can seem daunting, but the community has come to rely on Angel Charity to aid with assisting in new construction, renovation and expansion of existing facilities and retiring mortgages.

“The timing was right for these organizations and the need was there, so it was a good fit. Angel Charity has always been associated with bricks and mortar, because there are not a lot of opportunities for these nonprofit organizations to build or improve buildings or facilities, and agencies in Pima County know that Angel Charity will do that for them,” Brown said.

Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona CEO Debbie Rich said Angel Charity’s gift toward “Angel’s Place for Girls” is helping make dreams come true for girls ages 5 to 17.

The $2.7 million facility will house a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) lab, demonstration kitchen, art studio, sport court and additional meeting spaces. Groundbreaking is slated for 2015, and fundraising continues.

“There is so much for girls to experience, and our Broadway Boulevard campus is located near so many areas where parents can’t afford for their girls to take gymnastics or dance or experience these critical STEM programs and other opportunities,” Rich said. “Now we will be able to offer these experiences in close proximity to where these girls live.”

The partnership with Angel Charity is also teaching the girls about philanthropy firsthand.

“The Angels are role models for our girls. We want the girls to understand philanthropy, so we have built a curriculum called Angel Philanthropy in which the girls can earn badges at every level,” she said. “There are five to 10 requirements for each badge, and one requirement is to meet with an Angel and learn about all they do in the community and why they do it. It is a very cool ripple effect of their gift, and we are very excited about it.”

Members of Angel Charity are equally gratified, and are working hard in hopes of raising at least $100,000 at Suit & Tie, according to Shannon North, co-chair with Andrea Smith.

The event has evolved over the past decade from an intimate Angel Men’s Club Poker Party into a signature fall fundraiser that offers something for everyone, North said.

In addition to both amateur and professional Texas Hold ’em tournaments, gaming will include craps, blackjack and roulette. Entertainment will feature celebrity DJ Lucy Wrubel of Dallas, a nightclub atmosphere and a gourmet international menu that will feature high-end cuisine of Italy, France and New Orleans, as well as specialty cocktails. Audi of Tucson will highlight several cars at the event.

“Not everyone plays poker, and not everyone likes gambling or dancing, but everyone will be having a great time visiting with friends,” North said. “This is reflective of a Monte Carlo casino with an old-style, Bond-esque feel and a champagne lounge and martini bar … we are totally transforming the Tucson Country Club by creating areas of vignettes that make you feel as though you have gone somewhere completely different. It will be a dynamite event.”

In spite of the name, Suit & Tie will have a relaxed attitude; “stylish casual” dress is welcome.

“We want people to come and be comfortable and just enjoy the evening,” North said.

Contact freelance writer Loni Nannini at ninch2@comcast.net

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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