LaGRANGE — Strings of colorful beads, ornate masks, lively Cajun music and folks dressed to the nines filled all four floors of Del’Avant Saturday night in a Mardi Gras style celebration.
It was not just the annual New Orleans festival people were celebrating, but the more than $100,000 dollars raised for Twin Cedars programs and services.
The fourth annual Behind the Mask ball was the culmination of more than a month of campaigning and generous donations from folks around the community.
Of course, no ball would be complete without a king and queen.
Dale Jackson, owner of Jackson Heating and Air, and Pam Herndon, owner of PC Screen Printing and Sign, were officially crowned by LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton and given full reign over the town for the night.
“Tonight my official decree of LaGrange is: don’t hurt anyone and have a good time,” Jackson said with a smile.
“I have several of my closest friends here tonight, and we intend to celebrate Mardi Gras and Twin Cedars,” Herndon exclaimed.
“Overall, this is a great event,” she continued. “Whomever thought of this (fundraiser), it’s a fantastic idea. I’ve been to this event every year, and it gets more and more fun.”
Jackson and Herndon earned their titles by individually raising the most money out of 20 members of the Behind the Mask royal court.
They, along with the royal court, campaigned for votes through social media, phone calls, fundraisers and more. Each vote the nominees garnered cost $1.
Together, Jackson and Herndon raised a total of $24,000.
“It heals my heart that small people, the children, will benefit from this … they are our future,” Herndon stated.
“I started my endeavor with Twin Cedars because someone at my company is involved with their Safe Families program,” Jackson explained. “Safe Families partners with area churches so they aren’t eligible for government funding. I’m extremely proud to partner with Twin Cedars and specifically, the programs who cannot receive government funds.”
According to Lisa Wicker, public relations director of Twin Cedars, the entire royal court raised $72,868 — a record-setting number for the event.
That total, combined with the monetary donations that continued to pour in Saturday night, set the grand total for the annual Behind the Mask fundraiser at more than $105,000, Wicker stated.
“It makes everything that goes into this event worth it,” she said. “Plus, to know these record breaking numbers are going back to this community and help our children.”
After costs, every cent will stay in Troup County and benefit Twin Cedars services like the Bradfield Center for Boys, Darkness to Light training to recognize signs of child abuse and more.
“It’s exciting to see how the community gets involved and also gets excited about the event,” stated Samantha Link, a public relations representative for Twin Cedars. “You can have an event, party and a good time. But when you can incorporate the meaning behind the event and people invest in it, it makes it that much better.”
While folks celebrated the success of the 2016 Behind the Mask event Saturday night, some could not help but think of next year’s fundraiser.
“I have no idea how we’ll top this year,” Wicker said. “But something may already be in the works by former queens Mechelle Wheless and Trish Liechty.”
Melanie Ruberti is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. She may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2156.