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LETMESAIL lights up New Year’s Eve

Posted: January 7, 2009 8:47 p.m.
Updated: January 8, 2009 4:30 a.m.

Janelle Spindt (front, in red) joins friends at the LETMESAIL Bon Voyage Ball.

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The Santa Clarita Valley can really party when it matters and they proved it last week as the Grand Ballroom at the Hyatt Valencia filled up with merry makers for LETMESAIL's second annual New Year's Eve Bon Voyage Ball.

Dressed in festive suits and gowns, nearly 200 guests lingered in the lobby to enjoy gourmet hors d'oeuvres and cocktails at what is one of the group's main fundraisers.

In addition to the $175 for the full dinner package ($300 per couple), they offered tickets for the after-dinner party for $30 each. The strategy worked and they had 80 reservations for the 9 p.m. to midnight party.

Dinner guests enjoyed a four-course feast featuring roasted pear salad, braised short ribs and chicken breast, boursin mashed potatoes and asparagus.

Afterwards, a lavish dessert bar featured pumpkin cheesecake, meringues, chocolate-dipped strawberries and chocolate cake for miles.

Guests also lined up for complimentary photos from O'Connor Photography. Other guests gathered around 12 Monte Carlo-style gaming tables featuring blackjack, craps, roulette and poker which included Three Card Poker, Texas Hold'em and Let-it-Ride.

At the beginning of the evening, each guest at the party received $100 worth of free "casino cash." High scorers and those who purchased raffle tickets vied for prize baskets including vacations, golf packages, spa treatments, entertainment and restaurant packages and various gift certificates. To keep the party swinging, the Tony Capuka band played a hip blend of pop and standards. And naturally at midnight, everyone pulled out hats and noisemakers for a champagne toast while hundreds of balloons dropped from the ceiling. Then the band started up again for dancing until dawn.

A Good Cause
LETMESAIL is an acronym that means Lifestyle Enrichment Through Meaningful Exercise, Social Activity and Independent Living.

"Proceeds from the New Year's Eve Bon Voyage Ball fundraiser will support LETMESAIL's life-enhancing programs," said Executive Director Gary Spindt.

The rapidly growing non-profit organization currently serves more than 225 participants with Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, Asperger's Syndrome, hearing and vision impairments and physical, medical and intellectual disabilities. According to Spindt, the mission of LETMESAIL is to provide therapeutic, social, recreational and educational opportunities for differently-abled individuals (and their family members), enabling them to maximize their potential to lead a more independent, healthy and enriched quality of life through a wide variety of activities. LETMESAIL also boasts about 100 volunteers who help with activities throughout the year.

To illustrate what the organization does, guests were entertained by scenes of clients participating in ski trips, horse-back-riding trips, amusement parks, Special Olympics and various outings projected on an oversized screen.

Sailing into the Future
"We are very grateful for our many donors and sponsors, especially the presenting sponsor of the New Year's Eve Bon Voyage Ball, Poole & Shaffery, LLP attorneys at law," Spindt said as he addressed the crowd after dinner.

Spindt said that last year that he was almost embarrassed by the initial monetary contribution the firm made to get them started in 2005. In 2008, Spindt became the full-time executive director of the nonprofit organization and has steadily increased the number and quality of activities.

Gary and Maureen Spindt became involved in Special Olympics and later founded LETMESAIL to find a way to involve their 25-year-old daughter, Janelle, in more activities as she got older. As a result, along with other differently-abled members, Janelle Spindt now enjoys regular activities such as theater outings, afternoon games of foosball and even a New Year's trip to the Rose Parade.

As always, Shaffery was quite humble about the firm's ongoing sponsorship because he said his real motivation was to get the organization started. Since then, Shaffery has seen the organization grow and he said he feels confident LETMESAIL will continue to flourish under Spindt's guidance.

"We became the founding sponsors because we were looking for a worthy local charity and when Gary approached us, we were more than willing to help out," Shaffery said.

His wife, Joni, Larry and Sue Mankin and Scott and Vanessa Wilk joined Shaffery at his table. As they were waiting to get their portraits done, Scott Wilk said they loved the opportunity to go to a lovely, formal event for New Year's Eve, especially when it supports such a good cause.

The grassroots organization relies on private and corporate cash or in-kind donations, such as gift certificates or prizes for events, as well as government grants to meet operating costs. Volunteers are utilized (and needed) for everything from chaperoning to event planning to fundraising support.

In addition to Poole and Shaffery, sponsors include Disney, Weingart Foundation, The Henry Mayo Newhall Foundation, the John Gogian Family Foundation, the Law Offices of Lisa S. Golshani, LA84, Bank of America, Blue Cross, LM Aero Club, LARC Ranch, Valencia High School and the city of Santa Clarita.

New to the Party
Kris Hough attended the ball in a stunning black gown with her husband, Tom. They were joined by Brian Whitely and Karen Maleck-Whiteley.

"We are having a great time, this is our first time and it is just amazing," Kris Hough said. "I love LETMESAIL, it's a good group,"

Randy Kraus, an associate in Poole and Shaffery in Fresno, was playing blackjack at one of the tables with his wife, Elise.

"When (John) Shaffery sent us an invitation, it sounded like a great event," Randy Krause said. "We read the brochure and after being here tonight, feel it is a great organization and a wonderful cause."

Across the room at table 13, Matt Adams, Kris Hill, Kelly Adams, Jennifer Anderson and Janelle Spindt also enjoyed the party. Hill coaches swimming, cycling and flag football for LETMESAIL and Kelly is Matt's older sister. She loves the idea that her brother and others are able to attend events with a group.

Matt, 21, recounted how he was really excited to attend "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," in December.
"I sang the ‘Star Spangled Banner,' but not on stage," he said. But he did win $10 in casino cash during the evening and hoped to win a raffle prize. Matt is also a self-proclaimed football fanatic. "My wish for the New Year is for USC to win the Rose Bowl," he gushed.

For more information about LETMESAIL, contact the office at (661) 702-8555, e-mail gary@letmesail.org or www.letmesail.org.

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