How Turkey and Morocco inspired an oasis at the National Building Museum.
By Sarah Valerio
It is no small feat to transform the cavernous National Building Museum into a sparkling oasis; one strung several stories high with billowing, extravagant draping, plush carpeting and metal floor lanterns, never mind the bubbling fountain surrounded by palm plants or the troupes of dancers performing exotic routines to far eastern music. But on September 29, the CharityWorks Dream Ball simultaneously metamorphosed the museum, raised a fortune to benefit See Forever and the USO, and honored Washington Capitals’ owner Michelle Freeman as recipient of the 2012 CharityWorks Philanthropy Award.
The transformation was the brainchild of Warrenton, Virginia-based interior designer, Barry Dixon. Dixon, who co-chairs the event with principle partner at Sotheby’s Mark Lowham, found his inspiration for this year’s Midnight At The Oasis theme while on buying trips to Turkey and Morocco.
“They were exotic, inspiring trips,” said Dixon. “You feel like you’re traveling back in time when you’re there. I wanted to capture the cuisine, colors, and magic of these places from the bowels of Istanbul to the spice markets of Marrakech.”
In addition to the décor and entertainment, Dixon, with the help of Susan Gage Caterers, stayed true to theme with the delicious, seated, four-course dinner to which guests were treated. The sumptuous meal included hummus, cucumber gazpacho, a tabouleh, tomato, and avocado tower accompanied with miniature spanakopita, grilled tenderloin, a vegetable kebab and rice pilaf and an orange and white chocolate pistachio bombe with Turkish coffee and Moravian-spice cookies for dessert.
“[The National Building Museum] is a daunting venue,” Dixon said of the vast undertaking. “People come here every week during charity season and it has to look different than all the others. We tried to do something colorful and warm.”
CharityWorks founder, Leah Gansler, referred to by Dixon as a “force of nature,” called this year’s Dream Ball, of which PwC and Chris Simmons were Host Sponsors and Washington Life Magazine was a Media Sponsor, the “best year ever.”
Coordinating an event on such a grand scale requires a lot of time, energy, and dedication from Gansler, who says she finds her inspiration primarily in two children she has met through CharityWorks.
“Every time I get tired I think to myself, ‘don’t be selfish,'” says Gansler.
Guests on hand included Maryland Attorney General, Doug Gansler, Washington Capitals’ and Washington Wizards’ co-owner and former founder and president of AOL International, Jack Davies, wife of former Reagan defense secretary Frank Carlucci, Marcia Carlucci, Representative Jim Moran (VA-8), Adeler Jewelers’ Jorge and Garciela Adeler, USO President, Sloan Gibson and wife, Margaret Gibson, and Liljenquist & Beckstead Jewelers’ Tom Liljenquist.
Guests listened to an operatic performance by Nathan Pacheco and participated in silent and live auctions. The live auction included such packages as an evening with Dr. Maya Angelou and former President Bill Clinton, a U.S. flag signed by former Presidents George Bush Sr. and George W. Bush, a 2013 Emmys VIP package and topaz ring worn by Lisa Rinna, a Barry Dixon interior room makeover, a Cartier watch and The Palm package, a Sotheby’s trip for four to New York City, and a Jack Daniels’ Presidential Barrel package.
Proceeds from the night benefited special beneficiaries See Forever and the USO. See Forever’s Young Adult Learning Center works to give teens a second, and for many, last, chance to turn their lives around through its work with under-privileged youth in the D.C. area. The USO’s Operation Enduring Care will fund the construction of the USO Warrior and Family Center at Walter Reed National Military Center in Bethesda and underwrite programs to be offered at the Center including physical and recreational activities, mental health support, family strengthening, education, employment training, and community reintegration support.