Last weekend we went to Houston for the Periwinkle Foundation’s fundraising gala. Periwinkle provides a free summer camp for childhood cancer patients and their siblings and is truly instrumental in helping kids survive cancer. I’ve been involved with Periwinkle for seventeen years so we decided to chip in with some friends from camp and purchase a table at the gala. It was also a nice break from editing their video, which I am still working on.
The weekend started on Friday night with a private dinner party at Mark’s American Cuisine. Mark’s is a very nice restaurant and had just been named the best restaurant in Houston by Zagat a few days earlier. It’s one of the places where the executive chef (Mark) is a true artist whose medium is food. He comes to camp every year to work with the kids and teach them a bit about cooking, and he ususally cooks something up for us as well. The Friday party was hosted by the camp director and her husband, a pair of Houston physicians whose generosity knows no bounds.
The meal consisted of four courses of some of the most exquisite and delicious food I’ve ever eaten. Most memorable was the dessert my wife ordered (and kindly shared): a perfectly made frosted cake donut sliced into layers and smothered with fresh berries and whipped cream. It’s like Homer Simpson once said: “Donuts. Is there anything they can’t do?”
We spent the evening catching up with friends from camp, which is always nice. It’s a weird relationship with many of these people because I’ve known some of them for so long, yet I only see them once a year. Lots of catching up, sort of like with distant, yet close relations.
On Saturday we lounged around at the Houstonian where we were staying and where the gala would be held. We wandered around the grounds, enjoying a beautiful day and exploring the hotel’s amenities. Mostly, though, we had a nice lazy day of people watching and scotch drinking in a pleasant corner of Houston just outside the 610 loop where pine trees soar overhead and the noise and congestion of Houston is easily forgotten.
A breezy day turned into a clear and mild evening with slow-lingering light painting the sky above. Perfect for the outdoor gala. The evening began with cocktails and mingling on the lawn while people wandered about, checking out and bidding on the silent auction items. We caught up with camp friends and enjoyed the music of Beatlesgras, a bluegrass Beatles cover band.
Dinner was excellent and there was plenty of wine to loosen the wallets of the wealthy. One thing these people know how to do is get donations – big donations – which is why Camp Periwinkle, long considered one of the premiere specialty camps in the country, is able to spare no expense for the campers who run the gamut of all races, religions, and socio-economic groups.
When the live auction began we were amazed by the items that had been donated: an all expenses paid trip to the Kentucky Derby with deluxe accomodations (went for $15K), a trip to NYC for the Ralph Lauren Fall Preview (went for $16K), a puppy bred from champion hounds (went for $11K) and other unique items that all fetched generous bids. We low-rollers sat and enjoyed the auction, surprised by what people will pay for things, but always remembering that each $1000 spent would send a kid to camp, and that’s what it’s all about. Ultimately, as with all things related to Camp Periwinkle, it was another lesson in generosity. People unvelievably generous with their money or with their time, and in some cases with both.
After our weekend with the Houston society set, we cruised back to our low-key Austin, picked up the animals (Phoebe survived her first boarding experience since we got her and she seems to like us even more) and did some serious sitting around and eating of regular – nongourmet – food.