LAURINBURG — With the Golden Girls, John Belushi, professional golfers, and two Michael Jacksons milling around the St. Andrews University Belk Center on Saturday, the American Red Cross of Scotland and Robeson Counties welcomed the most diverse list of attendees yet to its 18th annual Celebrity Dinner and Game Night.
Before a meal catered by Chartwells, the evening’s waitstaff paraded in character before the 300 guests at the Red Cross chapter’s largest annual fundraiser. FCC North Carolina’s beach bums earned the judges’ nod for the most original theme, with King Arthur and his court, sponsored by Domino’s Pizza, giving the funniest performance.
“We had a whole thing going,” said Allen Wood, who as the Knight of the Cross of Crimson mistakenly thought the event was given in his honor. “We actually had a little bit more to go — we were going to do a sword fight — but we were going a little long.”
The night included a team performance by representatives from Scottish Pines Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, Bob’s Jewel Shop and John’s Fuel Service as the Golden Girls. Representatives from Railroad Friction Products were dressed as professional golfers and from Murphy-Brown LLC, leprechauns. WLNC Radio and Reaves Engraving representatives dressed as the cast of Downton Abbey — and Campbell’s Soup workers came as zombies from Michael Jackson’s iconic “Thriller” video.
“When I was in high school it was a really big deal when the Thriller video came out,” said Merrideth Hale, who with the other members of the Campbell’s Soup team has participated in the Red Cross event for more than a decade. “We’ve been thinking about doing the Thriller theme for three or four years now and we finally did it, so we’re pretty excited.”
The whole ensemble, including costumes, table decorations, and a dance number that was named the evening’s best parade performance, was the result of eight weeks of work.
“The dance routine we put together in my garage on Monday night. We popped the music in there, looked at a couple of videos, and started practicing,” Hale said. “We just have so much fun.”
Returning to the grave with the best in show title were the Scotland Health Care System waitstaff, all in attendance as dead celebrities — among them James Brown, Sally Ride, Shirley Temple, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, and system CEO Greg Wood as Liberace.
“My son’s a big reptile fan so I saw some snakes and alligators in his room and borrowed them for tonight,” said cardiovascular center director Greg Stanley, who as Steve “The Crocodile Hunter” Irwin, opted out of taping a stingray to his back. “This is his hat, too. It’s been great, having fun with a lot of folks that you know and raising money for a good cause.”
Following dinner, the event transformed into a combination casino night and dance party, with guests given the option to try their hand at the poker or craps tables or to dance the night away. All money won and lost during the game night had value only in Monopoly and the live auction held at the end of the evening.
“I try to do everything I can to help because they help us quite a bit too,” said Laurel Hill volunteer firefighter Tommy Zydor as he manned the roulette wheel on Saturday. “It’s just a lot of fun. Everybody has a good time.”
Named the Red Cross chapter’s executive director late last year, Cynthia Bradley praised the efforts of prior director and current disaster program manager Carol Ann Lentz as well as the event’s sizable volunteer force in orchestrating the dinner and game night. Bradley estimated that between “tips” left for the waitstaff, several 50/50 drawings, and the silent auction, the event would surpass its $33,000 fundraising goal.
“I cannot tell you how in awe I am of all of the people and how much work goes into it and how they all smile doing it,” she said. “It’s such a cohesive group it’s just amazing. I walk around with my mouth open because of the community spirit. For a small county, it’s amazing how many people come out and participate.”