Galas for children and assault victims lift spirits

HOT STUFF

Eats: Dining Reviews/Hot Stuff

October 14, 2004|By Sloane Brown | Sloane Brown,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Gala fund-raisers are supposed to raise money for nonprofits, but a couple of recent parties were also raising spirits.

Take the 22nd annual Benefit and Auction for the Believe In Tomorrow National Children's Foundation, which is headquartered here in B-more. (If the name doesn't sound familiar, you may remember it by its previous moniker, Grant-A-Wish Foundation.) The very nature of the organization -- helping kids with life-threatening illnesses and their families -- is heart-warming in itself.

The party is known for its great celebrity memorabilia, like this year's biggie, a signed jersey of Joe DiMaggio's. About 30 area restaurants and caterers set up food stations around the Grand Lodge in Hunt Valley. With all the bidding, mingling and feasting, how could you help but feel warm and fuzzy?

But, even Believe In Tomorrow's founder/national director Brian Morrison was blown away by this year's VIP guest: Ravens tight end Todd Heap.

"What a nice guy Todd is!" Brian raves.

"We had some of the children and their families from the Children's House at Hopkins at the party, and he spent a lot of time with them. ... He was an extraordinarily nice young man and a great role model for the kids."

Then there was the first fund-raiser for the Sexual Assault Forensic Examiners Program of Mercy Medical Center, which has been helping Baltimore victims of sexual assault for the past decade and has also focused on documenting the assault and collecting evidence. Some 18 specially trained forensic nurse examiners work in the program, and they decided it was high time to honor folks with whom they have worked very closely, the detectives in the Baltimore City Police Sex Offense Unit.

One of the nurses, Freddy Herbert, says there was a reason she and her colleagues at S.A.F.E. chose the American Visionary Art Museum for their get-together.

"Many of the artists [whose work is shown there] have been victims of trauma ... and creativity is often a way for people to heal from that trauma," Freddy says.

Among those in the crowd of 150 were Sonja Sohn, who plays Detective Kima Greggs on HBO's The Wire and acclaimed writer Taylor Branch.

Sonja presented awards to all the real-life city detectives. And Taylor -- who has written extensively on U.S. civil rights -- drew analogies with that movement and the benefits of the S.A.F.E. program. Freddy says Branch told the crowd how the program helps empower women and gives a voice to victims.

"The first step in the healing process," Freddy says, "is being believed."

Movie extras

The folks over at Baltimore's Piper Rudnick are still abuzz over their recent brush with fame. The law firm's big green glass Mount Washington building was cast as CIA headquarters in the movie Syriana, which was filmed here and in D.C. recently. A few Piper people even got roles as extras. Of course, everyone was on the lookout for the film's star, George Clooney.

Piper's managing director, Paul Tiburzi, was one of the lucky ones who had a chance to chat with George -- noting he sported a thick black beard and a few more pounds than usual. (It's all part of getting into the role of spy Robert Baer.)

One of B-more's men about town also landed a part. Brown Advisory hotshot Greg Barnhill had stopped by Piper Rudnick to say hi to Syriana director Stephen Gaghan. They had gotten to know each other a few years ago, Greg says, and the next thing he knew, he was playing the part of a CIA official right behind Clooney.

As far as his lines went, Greg says, that part was easy. He was told to mumble in the background.

He says the experience was a lot of fun, in large part because of Clooney. Greg says the actor -- known for his pranks and roguish sense of humor -- kept everyone on the set relaxed and laughing.

To submit tips, ideas and possible items for Hot Stuff, e-mail sloane@sloane brown.com or fax information to 410-675-3451.

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