From left; Debbie Barber, Joe Colangelo and Bobbie Clark.

Escape to Kokomo was back for 2021. This fun and exciting fundraising event for Ridge Area Arc, was held Saturday at the Island View Restaurant. This very popular event was not held last year due to COVID-19.

This year the restaurant was closed to outside guests so the event could be safely held with appropriate social distancing precautions. People wore their ‘island best’ including Caribbean shirts, sparkly flip flops and flowered sundresses to get in the spirit of the party.

“We love this event,” said Victor Divietro with Waypoints Financial. “I’ve been on the Board since 1998 and have been the Chair since 2002. Arc serves a demographic that is truly special. They are amazing! I wanted to be part of that and help people realize their dreams.”

Organizing such a large scale party with over 150 attendees took a lot of dedicated people. Leading the group was CEO of Ridge Area Arc Kathleen Border and Director of Development Donna Scherlacher.

“This is our largest fundraiser of the year,” said Border. “It’s a fun and fabulous island themed dinner with the intention of raising funds for our programs that serve those with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

“We’re so happy to have Waypoints Financial as our title sponsor again. We receive a lot of support from them and others around the county. We’re also excited to be able to have this event post-COVID. We’ve adjusted for precautions with temperature checks and masks.”

Highland’s favorite Master of Ceremonies, Don Elwell, kept the crowd in stiches with his hilarious dialogue on stage. The evening began with guests socializing and taking a look at the over 40 different silent auction items.

Some of these offerings included a signed Miami Dolphins football, Wine Sampling experience, Yeti Tundra 65 Cooler, A Bok Tower ticket and picnic pack and a freshwater pearl jewelry set.

Dinner was truly a ‘Cheeseburger in Paradise.’ Wonderful tropical settings and huge cheeseburgers, complete with all the fixings at your table, and served with chips and macaroni salad. Dessert was key lime pie.

While many donations were from local businesses and private donors, some also came from local non-profit organizations.

“All of us non-profits are working hard to support each other during these difficult times,” said Border. “The Children’s Museum, Heartland Horses, and others are trying to help each other gear back up.”

The 60 West Band, from Plant City, kept the place jumping all night with their Jimmy Buffet style music. Songs like “Margaretville,” “Oh, What a Night,” “Free Falling” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise” invited people to the dance floor.

Bill Lee was looking at the silent auction items. Was he looking for something in particular? “No, I’m just looking to see how many my wife signed up for,” he said with a laugh.

Debbie Barber, Joe Colangelo and Bobbie Clark were having a great time. “This is so much fun,” said Clark. “It’s what it’s all about!”

After dinner was the big Hula Hoop contest; one for men and one for women. The ladies took the floor and the crowd decided they were pretty evenly matched. Each one won a hat. The men appeared to need a little more practice except for one who never wavered with his hoop. The contest brought a lot of smiles and laughter from the attendees.

As the evening winded down, the last activity was the live auction. Three vacation packages were up for bid: Music Lover’s Dream (choice of New Orleans, Nashville or Memphis), the Big Apple Experience (New York) or the Dream Car Experience (Las Vegas).

Those wanting to extend their evening of fun could listen or dance to the music of 60 West. It was a great evening of fun that has been a long time in coming.

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