Bastille Day celebration



July 23, 2006|By SLOANE BROWN

THIS WAS THE FIFTH year in which Dan and Donna Wecker had thrown a Bastille Day celebration at their restaurant, The Elkridge Furnace Inn. It was the biggest one yet, with a couple hundred folks expected.

About half an hour into the party, the winds kicked up around the party tent, and guests rushed to the doors to watch members of the Johns Hopkins Pediatric Trauma Team arrive on the back lawn. By helicopter. Not an unimpressive way to introduce the evening's beneficiary.

For many of the guests though, the helicopter wasn't the party standout. Nor was it the fabulous food -- such as escargot with flavored butter and pasta -- or even the selection of wines available for tasting.

Rather, it was the compelling story behind the event's origins that impressed them. The Weckers had lost four sons to a rare genetic disorder, but Hopkins doctors had cured a fifth, Cameron. Instead of dwelling on their losses, the Weckers wanted to celebrate and share what they had gained.

"We were looking for an opportunity to give back," Dan Wecker said, "and the Pediatric Trauma Team is a pet cause of our doctors."

"It's my third year here. I had a child at Hopkins, and I can't think of a better way to support them," said Hunt Valley interior designer Michele Luczak.

"It's an amazing party ... so warm and friendly," said CareFirst training manager Lori Stavisky.

"This is great," said Pediatric Trauma team chief Dr. Paul Columbani as he surveyed the crowd.

"It just gets better every year," his wife Linda said.


TV reporter loves variety -- and sleep

Born in Columbia, but now a "city girl," Gabrielle Abiera started working in the WBFF newsroom as an intern on Sept. 10, 2001. Within a month, she was hired. Abiera, 32, has worked a number of jobs there: assignment editor, producer. Since 2003, she has been on air as the traffic reporter and fill-in reporter.

Word is that you have quite a following, at least among Baltimore's male viewers.

That's news to me. Everyone at the station gets fan mail. Although I do have a friend whose brother works for the city police. And she said, "You have the entire police department on lockdown!" That's nice. I'm very flattered. You've been on air now for three years. What has surprised you about the business?

Viewers' reactions when I'm on the street. They say, "You look so different in person. You're fatter. You're thinner." I've heard people say, "You look like an Amazon on TV, and you're so small." What's the most fun about the job?

It is different every day. It's exciting to do a morning show because we have so much freedom. Also, we eat a lot on our show. We have chefs and cooks who make things and I love it. You work a split shift -- early in the morning, then coming back for late afternoon / early evening. That has to be a little wearing.

That's the "con" to the job. The schedule. I'm not generally a morning person. Do you sleep a lot on weekends?

I sleep a lot, period. You take afternoon naps?

I don't think you could classify it as a nap once you've gotten past two hours. That's sleeping. What do you do when you're not sleeping or working?

It depends on how rested I am. Some days, there's nothing I like better than to go home and make it a Blockbuster night. On the other hand, I had a really good night a few weeks ago. I met my best girlfriend and we went to the AFRAM Festival. We went to an old-school hip-hop concert. Drank a smoothie. Then, I met up with my boyfriend and told him I was in the mood to go dancing. So, he took me to a nice little spot and we danced the night away. What are your guilty pleasures?

Reality television. Right now, I'm watching Big Brother All-Stars. Love it. There's one on MTV called, Making the Band. ... And, of course, Fox Network's So You Think You Can Dance? I can't, but I love to watch it. That's my American Idol. Vaccaro's eclairs. They're as big as a loaf of bread. They're so bad for you, but I love them. And I do love to play poker. For money. And that's bad! Has working in TV news changed your view of life?

I don't think so. I'm a very sensitive person. ... I remember [covering] the sniper shootings. I was working as a morning-show producer at the time. We were in the morning [newsroom] meeting and another shooting happened. It was the young boy who was shot in the chest. I had to walk out of the meeting because I was about to cry ... I think, if anything, [the TV business] has affected my attitude about my job. Someone once told me that if you're in this business long enough, you will get fired. I haven't been fired. Yet. But, it will happen one day. And I think that knowledge has toughened my skin. I realized that I'm expendable and that no one person is the news team. ... It's humbling. It's good to keep your ego in check. It's interesting to see how others don't. And not just in my business.




Benefits CollegeBound Foundation

Seated luncheon

Hyatt Regency Hotel

300 Light St.

11:30 a.m.

Tickets $35

Call 410-783-2905, Ext. 204



Benefits Easter Seals

Open bar, hors d'oeuvres, food stations, live music

Harbor View Marina

500 HarborView Drive

7 p.m.

Tickets $50

Call 301-931-8700, Ext. 109

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