Education theme behind NAACP 'Back to the Prom' benefit

Harriet Howard Heithaus/Staff
Thanise Marc, who won the gold medal from the NAACP ACT-SO program for her original essay, left, and Gaëlle André, gold medalist for music in the same program relax at dinner. Mare read her essay and Andre sang "You Raise Me Up" for the audience.

Harriet Howard Heithaus/Staff Thanise Marc, who won the gold medal from the NAACP ACT-SO program for her original essay, left, and Gaëlle André, gold medalist for music in the same program relax at dinner. Mare read her essay and Andre sang "You Raise Me Up" for the audience.

Tia Johnson/Staff
The first prize in the live auction was an overstuffed teddy bear, which the winner donated to the Shelter for Abused Women and Children. But there were trips to far away places like Paris, jewelry, dinners and wine tastings to be had.

Tia Johnson/Staff The first prize in the live auction was an overstuffed teddy bear, which the winner donated to the Shelter for Abused Women and Children. But there were trips to far away places like Paris, jewelry, dinners and wine tastings to be had.

Harriet Howard Heithaus/Staff
Dessert to finish off dinners of salmon, pasta or chicken, included a chocolate cake with warm filling, berries with glaze and creme frâiche.

Harriet Howard Heithaus/Staff Dessert to finish off dinners of salmon, pasta or chicken, included a chocolate cake with warm filling, berries with glaze and creme frâiche.

A crowded ballroom and a bustling silent auction array and the lively “Prom Night” theme — there were even hully-gully dance lesson — gave the 30th annual NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet the air of a party. But there was serious logic behind the theme.

A prom is part of high school, and education is the ticket to a better life, and to the ability to help others, as Harold Weeks, president of the organization, told more than 200 attendees in the ballroom at the Naples Hilton Saturday, Oct. 27. The NAACP's programs include a youth and college division with leadership programs, a Back to School/Stay in School initiative and its ACT-SO (Afro-academic, Cultural Technological and Scientific Olympics) rewards talents on levels from local to national.

At the ball, supporters heard two of its local gold medalists: Thanise Marc, 15, a Golden Gate High School student who read her original essay on personal inspiration, and Gaëlle André, 16, of Lely High School, who sang the Rolf Loveland/Brendan Graham ballad, "You Raise Me Up" for the crowd.

During his keynote speech Weeks reminded the NAACP members and supporters that they were "the conscience of America" and that "as long as people's rights are being violated, there will always be a need for the NAACP." Those right, he said, applied to people of all ethnicities, not only African-American.

Guests received carnation corsages, a la prom wear, and some, such as Weeks, came outfitted in white tie and tails for a big night. Pre-dinner passed hors d'ouevres gave supporters time to dart among silent-auction offerings such as wine tastings at Whole Foods, dinners at local restaurants, an amethyst-and-diamond pendant, golf games, reserved hockey seats, girls' night out parties and wine baskets. After a dinner of salmon, chicken and pasta, attendees heard from Barbara Melvin, mistress of ceremonies, who kept the program moving at a lively pace. She was aided by awards presentations from Akita Cannon, the NAACP Freedom Fund chair, and the evening was opened and closed with prayer by the Rev. Clinton Hall of Unity Faith Missionary Baptist Church.

Net proceeds had not been full tallied, but there was spirited bidding during the live auction on offers of a women's diamond-ceramic-gold chronograph and a men's Equinox watch, trips to San Francisco wine country and a Tuscan cooking class in Italy.

For more information on the NAACP and its programs, see the website, www.naacpcolliercounty.com.

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