Around and about: Carnival evening takes in $235,000 for family service -
Published Sunday, February 24, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 11:07 am
Around and about: Carnival evening takes in $235,000 for family service

Not a single tuxedo or cocktail dress was in sight at the sixth annual Heartland Family Service Carnival of Love Gala on Feb. 16 at Embassy Suites La Vista.

The record 540 guests had been asked to dress casually for the event in a ballroom that was transformed into a lively carnival midway, with carnival foods, a wine toss, basketball pop-a-shot, pig races and a photo booth.

“I emcee a lot of events and this is the first one I got to wear jeans,” joked Mike DiGiacomo, who co-hosted with Mary Nelson.

Spring, a client who found refuge in Heartland Family Service's Safe Haven program, drew a standing ovation after she shared her story of surviving domestic violence. “Heartland Family Service saved my life,” she said. “Today we are happy, safe and moving forward.”

Rick Grubaugh was the evening's auctioneer. A New Orleans-style crawfish party for 20 went for $3,500, and a package to the Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club brought in $4,600. Justin Bieber wasn't as popular with the crowd as Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood; tickets to his concert brought in less than tickets to the women's shows.

According to event co-chairwoman Sally Stalnaker, the gala raised an estimated $235,000. It is annually the largest fundraiser conducted by the Heartland Family Service Friends Guild, which is led by Nancy Hanson, president. Joining Stalnaker as co-chairwomen were Kacey Lempka and Sheri Shonka. Honorary chairmen were Rob and Stacie Reed.

* * *

Nearly 1,000 people and one cat got a look at the upcoming ASID and Joslyn Castle Trust Designer Showhouse last weekend at the historic Smyth house, a 4,200-square-foot home that will be transformed by professionals of the Nebraska/Iowa Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers.

Robyn Tait and John Campbell are the current owners of the house, 710 N. 38th St., which will be open to the public May 3 though May 19.

The sneak peak party on Feb. 15 drew more than 100 people. While enjoying food catered by John Ford, guests checked out the designer room boards and saw 1920s images of the home.

On hand for the festivities was Rory, the neighborhood cat. According to showhouse coordinator Kristine Gerber, the cat is taken care of by area neighbors and it decided to spend the weekend at the showhouse.

“We just let him in and out,” she said. “The cat hasn't known what to think with all the furniture leaving.”

Another 800 people toured the home on Feb. 16 and 17.

Three designers who participated in the 1980 Designer Showhouse at the same house — Jan Buckingham, Marilyn Hansen and Joan Sorensen — also will work on this year's project.

When asked why she has been a such longtime participant in the showhouse, Buckingham said: “I enjoy it. It is kind of an addiction. I enjoy the chance to work with fellow designers.”

Money raised in May will go toward preserving and restoring Joslyn Castle, 39th and Davenport Streets. Members of ASID are donating their skills to the showhouse, and ASID will receive a portion of the proceeds to provide educational opportunities for their members.

“Built only three years apart, the Smyth House and Joslyn Castle are two of Omaha's architectural treasures,” said Julie Reilly of the Joslyn Castle Trust. “The 2013 Designer Showhouse allows us to revive one home while funding the preservation and restoration of another.”

More information is available at

* * *

New officers and members for the Friends Board of Children's Hospital & Medical Center and details for the annual fundraiser gala have been announced.

Officers are Jane Hirz, president; Sally English, president-elect; Judy Pritza and Mary Lou Brasee, vice presidents and gala co-chairmen; Michelle Ferris and Cathi Arnold, secretaries; Jennifer Rich, treasurer; Jane Schumacher, Kathy Seidel and Catherine Mahoney, gift shop; Michele Zadalis, gift shop adviser; and Christine Nikunen, adviser.

New board members are Laura Crosby, Julie Currin, Lou Ann Goding, Julie Horgan, Suzanne Kotula, Angela Kros, Kelly Kula, Stephanie Patsalis, Kate Schafer, Megan Schulz, Debi Tompkins, Debbie Wood and Aubrey Zuber.

The 65th annual Children's Gala will be Nov. 9 at CenturyLink Center Omaha. All proceeds from the evening will benefit the Carolyn Scott Rainbow House at Children's.

To share information about benefits or social news, contact Karen Sundell at



Cruise Away to the Caribbean, Stephen Center Inc., Champions Run, Angie Bingham at angiebingham2 Shamrock On!, Catholic Charities Omaha, CenturyLink Center,


American Girl Fashion Show, Junior League of Omaha, Happy Hollow Club,

MARCH 5 & 6

Table Art “A Knight and Day of Excellence,” Omaha Symphony Guild,


Kaleidoscope, University Hospital Auxiliary at the Nebraska Medical Center, LaVista Conference Center, 402-559-4197

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