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A night to remember

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The curtain rose on Saturday, October 24 to a full house for New Avenues to Independence’s Applause at the State! Walking down Euclid Avenue the mood was immediately set seeing New Avenues’ name on the theater marquee in Playhouse Square. What a thrill! The energy was electric as we entered the beautiful State Theater with masses of people milling around wearing tuxedos and long gowns. Excitement was in the air – you could feel it everywhere during the reception while guests enjoyed cocktails and tasty appetizers with the cool sounds of QS Jazz in the background.

Then the lights blinked and it was time to go into the exquisite theater built in 1921 as a movie/vaudeville house. As we took our seats one couldn’t help but remember the incredible talent that has graced the State Theater’s stage – Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, Abbot & Costello, Jack Benny and The Marx Brothers, to name just a few. Lydia Esparra, WOIO TV 19 anchor and also our favorite emcee, started the evening off with her usual flair. Then Jody Soland and the Kenmore High School Madrigals entertained us with the New Avenues theme song, Together We Are One – a song we never tire of hearing.

Anthony DiSalvo of the Sprout Film Festival followed with an interesting and relevant presentation including short films featuring people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Superhero Laser Beak Man, created by Australian Tim Sharp who has autism, was showcased along with a special “Hello to New Avenues and Cleveland” video by Tim. He signed off with “Cleveland rocks” and the guests certainly agreed.

Then in a dramatic moment, the curtain went up to reveal beautifully decorated dinner tables on the stage to the waiting, hungry crowd. Now we were standing on this historic stage that is much larger than one can ever see from the theater seats. Then onto the incredible, very enjoyable dinner prepared by well known, celebrity chef Chris Hodgson.

Another exciting moment occurred when the program resumed and the New Avenues film, Kelly’s Smile premiered. The star of the film, Kelly Jones, was present to receive rave reviews and sign autographs. And then Jeremy Shapira and Larane Hulsman from Giant Eagle graciously accepted the first Corporate Courage Award for their partnership with New Avenues in training and employing people with disabilities to work in various capacities in their stores.

To top the evening off, we all went back to the lovely theater lobby for scrumptious desserts and then danced the night away to the rockin’ K Street Band. The evening was a huge success, raising more than $52,000 to help New Avenues continue its very needed services and programs to over 750 individuals in Northeast Ohio.

Applause to all the donors and supporters for making this a truly magical evening of celebration for all the people we serve!

In case you missed this extraordinary evening, save the date for Saturday, October 8, 2016 for Applause at the Museum! This exciting event will be taking place at the renowned Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Roar in the holidays with a unique event alongside dinosaurs and cavemen. Major sections of the museum will be utilized for the event and exhibits will be open to all guests. Celebrity chef Zack Bruell is already on board and creating the scrumptious menu. So save the date to support New Avenues to Independence and get ready for another out-of-the-ordinary evening of great food, fun and entertainment.