Inaugural Vines for Life Showcases a Community, Charities
For one night, the castle-like Indianapolis Yacht Club was transformed into a Napa Valley winery at the inaugural Vines for Life wine tasting on October 1st. Over 230 Geist-area wine connoisseurs gathered to sample more than 60 different wines from around the world, raising money and awareness for three area cancer charities: Creating Hope, Indy SurviveOars, and Team Luke. Silent auction items, donations, ticket sales, and an exciting live auction hosted by Dennis Jackson of Jackson’s Estate Auctions netted over $21,000 for the three charities to split.
While this was the first time for the Vines for Life at the Yacht Club, this wasn’t the first wine tasting hosted by atGeist.com for charity. Starting in 2006, atGeist.com sponsored the Southern Indiana Wine Tour to benefit Creating Hope. John and Tina Gianfagna, parents of the late Jeanette Gianfagna Shamblen who founded Creating Hope, reminisced throughout the evening with Vines for Life attendees that participated in these previous wine tastings.
“Those bus trips were long, but great fun,” said John. “This venue and format is much better. We’re able to reach out to more people than the number we can reach on a 55-passenger bus.”
Earlier this spring, the idea of doing a wine tasting at the Yacht Club came to life when I asked Ray Cox of Elite Beverages to join my wife, Jeanne, and I for dinner. He brought his friend and Feather Cove I resident Susan Cotter with him. After we exchanged pleasantries, I discovered that Susan is a field marketing manager for Republic National Distributing, an Indianapolis-based wine distributor. They both agreed to help out with the wine tasting, not only by sponsoring the wine, but by lending their expertise.
The next day, I called Kathy Harrison (president of the Indy SurviveOars), Vicky and Todd Andritsch (Team Luke), and John and Tina Gianfagna to invite them to the next Thursday night dinner at the Yacht Club. Surprisingly, none of the three charities knew each other prior to our dinner, so the dinner was quite lively and promising. All three wholeheartedly agreed to help, and our organizing committee was formed.
We started meeting to plan the event in early June, gathering in the Ron Cruthers boardroom at the Yacht Club. The planets continued to align when Michelle Lee and Leah Potter, owners of a Life Divine, reached out and offered to help organize the event. Feather Cove III resident and cancer survivor Mary Ellingson wanted to help as well and joined the team. Running point on the event was my wife Jeanne, who lost her mom to cancer in 2001.
In the weeks leading up to the event, I was overwhelmed at how many silent auction items were donated to our causes. Over 60 items ranging in price from $25 to $2,000 in value were donated from area businesses. We had four bigger ticket items, which were saved for the live auction: a wheel barrel full of booze, an upgraded package for the atGeist.com Valentine’s Day cruise, a week at a ranch house in Wyoming, and a weekend stay at the Mauritson Winery in the Sonoma Valley.
Valet parking and photographs by our very own Brenda Staples Photography greeted attendees as they walked through the Vines for Life archway designed and constructed by Nancy Dicks of Awesome Occasions and Nancy Smith with Time Line Interiors. Wooden wine boxes, wine corks, bottles, and actual grape vines really made you feel like you were stepping into a winery. Attendees picked up a wine glass and made their way around the room, stopping to sample wines that ranged from a $7.95 bottle of Pacific Rim Sweet Riesling to a $97.99 bottle of Merryvale Profile. To compliment the wine, MBP Catering provided a smorgasbord of beef tenderloin on a cheddar crisp, cheeses, gorgonzola stuffed potatoes, Italian sausage and cheese tartlets, and the popular jumbo shrimp shooters. Background music was performed live all evening by “Bongo Boy” Ed Gaus and Brian Fields.
Perhaps the highlight of the evening was introducing the three charities to the crowd by way of 3:00 minute videos created by GeistTV.com. At the conclusion of the three videos, they all came to the front of the crowd for a big round of applause.
“It was great for us to expose Team Luke to new people,” said Todd Andritsch. “Any way we can expand our base and raise money is a positive thing for us.”
A special thanks to Bill Lorch at the Yacht Club for hosting our weekly meetings and accommodating our schedules. Over 20 volunteers handled registration, silent auctions, set-up, clean-up, and even valet parking. To the 230 registered attendees who paid $75 each to support these three causes, thank you so much for coming out. A big “thank you” to Ray Cox and Susan Cotter, who not only threw their company’s support behind the event, they personally took stock in making this inaugural event a big success. Watching how selfless and giving our organizing committee worked together was probably my biggest takeaway from the event. It also makes me thankful that I live in a community like Geist Reservoir.
And last, but certainly not least, thanks to my dear wife Jeanne for her tireless work. She kept everyone on track, orchestrated the weekly meetings, handled all the finances, and created everything from name badges to bid paddles to keep the costs to a minimum. It was her first event to plan and execute and she did an amazing job.