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Traditional Thai Dancer performing at CharityWorks’ Night in Shangri-La. Photo by Ben Droz.
Traditional Thai Dancer performing at CharityWorks’ Night in Shangri-La. Photo by Ben Droz.

CharityWorks’ Evening in Shangri-La honoring philanthropist Norma Ramsey was an elegant evening that left no detail untouched.
By John Arundel

Traditional Thai Dancer performing at CharityWorks’ Night in Shangri-La. Photo by Ben Droz.

Few fall galas are as grandly executed as CharityWorks, with floor-to-ceiling draping of The National Building Museum, Thai dancers springing from behind curtains and even personalized fortune cookies for dessert.

Its spectacular Evening in Shangri-La on Oct. 15 benefited Live it and Learn It and Thanks USA, while honoring philanthropist Norma Ramsey, a major force in DC’s philanthropic community, who received the 2011 Charity Works Philanthropy Award.

CharityWorks Founder Leah Gansler and co-chairs Mark Lowham and Barry Dixon left no elegant or clever detail untouched, with a Silent Auction and cocktails leading up to the main event, a performance by a gifted Cirque du Soleil gymnast, golden dragon dancers symbolic of the Chinese New Year, and a local Thai dancing troupe.

“We are delighted to pay tribute to our very dear friend Norma Ramsey for her tireless work on behalf of children and families,” Lowham said. “We are inspired by her personal commitment to the causes she believes in and are grateful for the support she has given CharityWorks over the past ten years.”

A lively auction afterwards by celebrity auctioneer Sam Solovey of NBC’s The Apprentice led to, among other items, a $15,000 winning bid from the evening’s honoree Norma Ramsey for three pieces of jewelry designed by Jorge Adeler of Adeler Jewelers in Great Falls: a cleaved citrine ring worn by Jennifer Lopez on American Idol, a pearl earring worn at the 2010 Golden Globes by Maria Menounos of Entertainment Tonight, and a Mexican opal and diamond earring worn by Gia Mantegna, an actress (NBC’s “Criminal Minds”) at the 2010 Golden Globes.

Virginia-based CharityWorks is a dynamic partnership among corporate leaders, donors and volunteers who come together to support high-performing charitable organizations delivering critical education, health or poverty reduction services or support men and women in uniform and their families.

“For more than a decade we have witnessed the impact that the dedicated volunteers of CharityWorks are making on our community, and we are honored to be part of tonight’s extraordinary organizations that transform lives through the gift of education,” Dixon said.

The night’s special beneficiaries were Live it and Learn It, a DC-based non-profit which ignites students’ curiosity and potential in DC public schools by interrupting the cycle of disengagement and underachievement in the city’s high-poverty schools, and Thanks USA, chaired by Bob Okun, the longtime head of NBC Universal’s government-affairs office in Washington, which offers a unique and tangible way for people to thank and honor the men and women in uniform.

A sumptuous seated dinner catered by Susan Gage Caterers and featuring a towering floral arrangement at each table by famed florist Jack Lucky, commenced with an Amuse Bouche of Curried Pumpkin Soup with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds and Crispy Won-Ton Sails. A second course of Pepper-Crusted Tuna Carpaccio and Asian Pear & Ginger Slaw Wasabi Aioli was followed by the main course of Asian Griilled Beef Tenderloin and Shitake Mushroom Risotto.

ManTech International‘s Chairman and CEO George Pedersen and his wife Marilyn Pederson were this year’s gala host sponsor, with additional corporate support from Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Raytheon Company, Price Waterhouse, EADS North America, Renaissance Strategic Advisors, Triumph Capital Investments, Wells Fargo and TTR Sotheby’s International Realty, led by its Managing Partner Mark Lowham, who was accompanied to the gala by his partner Joseph Ruzzo.

“Mark and Barry really put the ‘Dream’ into tonight’s ball,” Gansler enthused. “We cannot thank them enough for using their considerable talents to bring Shangri-La to life.”

Interior Designer Barry Dixon, CharityWorks Founder Leah Gansler, Interior Designer Katheryn Ireland and Mark Lowham of TTR Sotheby’s. Photo by Ben Droz.

The evening’s honoree Norma Ramsey and Gala co-chair Mark Lowham. Photo by Ben Droz.

Angie and Paul Pagnato. Photo by Ben Droz.

Emily and Neal Wheeler. Photo by Ben Droz.

Jonathan and Diana Taylor of TTR Sotheby’s International. Photo by Ben Droz.

Satsuko and Bob Young. Photo by Ben Droz.

William and Bobby Kilberg, chair of the Northern Virginia Technology Council, FBR co-founder and philanthropist Russ Ramsey and Knox Singleton, Chairman and CEO of Inova Health System. Photo by Ben Droz.

View more photos at our Smugmug Gallery.

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