A Year In Review: The Best Events of 2013

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Like last year, we outline the most exciting and innovative events of the year. Unlike last year, however, we’re factoring in something even more important than the cocktails and the couture. Our list for 2013 highlights the best events combined with the best philanthropies–the high dollar parties that are doing the most good. Check out what the District had to say for itself this time around:

10. DC Wine Week

Well, who doesn’t love wine? While this week-long festival isn’t technically a philanthropy by the textbook definition of the word, it’s certainly an invigorating force in stirring up interest, knowledge, and revenue of small and local businesses. DC Wine Week is an awareness campaign that creates support for local wineries, wine shops, and bars. Standout events this year included an outrageously sumptuous closing brunch at Sonoma, and a mid-week evening of authentic Italian food and wine on the patio of I Ricchi.

9. Taste of Entrepreneurship with BuildDC

The DC Chapter of Build.org, a non-profit that teaches entrepreneurship skills to middle school and high school students, has had an awesome year. For starters, its Taste of Entrepreneurship event at the Homer Building was a roaring success, with dozens of students seeing their business plans–a requisite  to create and execute as part of the program–come to fruition. For another, BuildDC just got a new office, hundreds of thousands of dollars in corporate pledges, and tons of community attention for their hard work. I  had the honor of serving as a judge of student teams presenting their business plans for actual start-up investment money. These kids are impressive.

8. DC Lawyers for Youth Fall Ball

Another newcomer to the do-gooder (and party-harder) scene, the DC Lawyers for Youth held its inaugural ball earlier this autumn at the historic and charming Woolly Mammoth Theater. As one of the minority non-lawyer attendees at Youth Fall Ball, I had a blast getting pretty smashed with some of the city’s brightest minds that are working hard to combat juvenile imprisonment and recidivism. Can’t wait to watch this event expand even more in the coming years!

7. Chef’s Best Dinner and Auction

More than 1,500 guests gathered on a Monday night in May to enjoy tastings from 60 of the region’s brightest culinary stars while raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to support children and adults facing HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life-challenging illnesses. The event benefits Food & Friends. Founded in 1988, this organization began in the basement of Westminster Presbyterian Church and has since grown into a far-reaching philanthropic endeavor. Their mission is to foster a community caring for illness-afflicted men, women, and children by preparing and delivering specialized meals and groceries in conjunction with nutrition counseling.

6. National Rehabilitation Hospital’s Las Vegas Nights

We’ve been going to this event for years now, and it never disappoints. Held at a fave venue, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Casino Night is about as close as you can get to Vegas without actually flying out there. The casino, the Tropicana dancers, the cocktails–there’s nothing that perks up a winter evening more than this dazzling event.

5. NFL Player’s Association Native Vision Gala

Native Vision is a nonprofit youth initiative which mobilizes professional athletes to serve as mentors to thousands of American Indian youth in health and education programs designed by Johns Hopkins public health experts. Since its inception, more than 10,000 youth and 40,000 Native community members have been served through the Native Vision initiative. This event attracts NFL players at the Embassy of Italy for a magical evening of sports, philanthropy, and entertainment.

4. Bachelors and Spinsters

This invitation-only ball dates back to the 1940s and is dedicated to the “legally single.” Though primarily a social event, B&S has recently benefitted TAPS, a tragedy assistance resource for those who have suffered the loss of a military loved one. This black-tie party is not messing around: they sent out save the dates for April 2014 in early November.

3. Butterfly Bash

Held in the thick of gala season, Butterfly Bash competes with some pretty heavy-hitting organizations and their black-tie balls. However, this locally-organized party, put on by Fair Chance, is not to be missed. Fair Chance was founded in 2002 to ensure that children living in poverty have access to quality programs that will enable them to follow their dreams. Thematic without being cheesy, the Butterfly Bash is an evening of lifting spirits, raising money, and sharing feel-good success.

2. Carols and Cocktails

A new one for us this year, Carols and Cocktails wowed us with holiday cheer. The two-part event begins with a full concert at the Kennedy Center, and is followed by an exclusive cocktail party. The event is put on by the Choral Arts Society of Washington, whose mission is the pursuit of excellence in choral repertoire and performance, and the commitment to promote and share the art of choral music through education and public outreach.

1. St. Jude Gourmet Gala

It’s pretty difficult to incorporate an hour-long plea for money program about your organization in the middle of a huge foodie event. Guests are liable to aggressively rebel against an auctioneer or speaking CEO in order to get to any number of the tempting, award-winning creations the city’s best restaurants are serving up at the tasting stations lining the titanic National Building Museum. The St. Jude Gourmet Gala seems to be able to do both fundraising and entertaining with boundless aplomb, however. This mid-week fête incorporates the most uplifting stories of love and charity while keeping the atmosphere convivial. Guests are so inspired, in fact, that it’s common to see corporate sponsors or representatives pledge tens of thousands of dollars on the spot. Heading into its 16th year, the St. Jude Gourmet Gala is a must-attend for every philanthropic Washingtonian.

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