Annual Mardi Gras Fundraiser Set for Feb. 18
BY MARY ELLE HUNTER
Special to The Pilot
The gaiety and excitement of the Mardi Gras celebrations that take over New Orleans, Rio de Janeiro and countless other cities is being reproduced in the Sandhills on Saturday, Feb. 18, from 6 to 10 p.m., when Pope John Paul II Catholic School in Southern Pines holds its fourth annual Mardi Gras fundraiser.
The gala evening supports the operations, technology and scholarships at the school, as it offers Moore County residents a chance to celebrate on the traditional pre-Lenten weekend in elaborate style at Pinehurst's Fair Barn.
A lavish buffet, a silent and live auction, raffles, and dance music and entertainment combine to create an event that is an exuberant replica of Mardi Gras observances around the globe.
Co-chairing the event are staff members Dr. Rick Kruska and Maureen Sullivan.
Kruska, who held the position of the school's principal for the last four years and guided the move from the original downtown Southern Pines location to a new and expanded campus on Camp Easter Road in the 2010 -2011 academic year, observes that the funds raised from the Mardi Gras celebrations have enabled the school to continue to meet its commitment to prepare students technologically for the 21st century.
"At the same time, the money raised from the Mardi Gras events has had a definite impact on the numbers of students for which the school has been able to provide financial assistance," he says.
One parent who has two children enrolled at Pope John Paul II Catholic School explains that the financial help is important for several reasons.
"I am trying to instill a devout inspiration in my children," she says. "Attending Pope John Paul II school allows them to get an excellent education, not only academically, but it reinforces their sensitivity toward others, their compassion and respect. Without the scholarships, I wouldn't be able to afford the advantages which they receive."
With a portion of the proceeds from last year's Mardi Gras event, a new computerized math program was put into service. Leeann Felicetta, a teacher in the lower grades, says the program allows her to differentiate on a daily basis among the abilities of the students.
"One day a child will really understand the concept and can do enrichment homework," Felicetta says. "On another day, they may have a problem, and we can re-teach the theory to that child and given them extra help. There is also an online component that the children can access from their home computers. For each lesson that we work on, animation and the vocabulary words used in that day's material appear on the screen, including a worksheet and a quiz. It is a great teaching tool."
Students enrolled at Pope John Paul II have an enthusiasm for learning that has evolved from such extracurricular activities as the two Lego Robotic Teams the school sponsors. Each year members of the teams choose a segment of a research topic that they explore and study at length.
One of the necessary elements is a large Competition Board, funded by a portion of the Mardi Gras proceeds, on which miniature robots are programmed by students to perform various missions relating to the topic.
Science/math teacher Lori Haley, who supervises the Lego Robotic Teams, says, "It promotes problem-solving with students using integrated skills learned from a whole range of disciplines."
A unique idea introduced at last year's Mardi Gras to assist the teachers is going to be repeated.
It's called a Giving Tree, and resembles the angel trees that are seen in area stores during the holiday season. In this case, the tree's decorations, created by the school's art club, describe items teachers would like to have for their classrooms - from colored markers to a piece of classroom furniture.
Mardi Gras revelers can pick out the item of their choosing and donate its cost to the school.
Contributing to the merrymaking atmosphere of Mardi Gras at the Fair Barn on Feb. 18 is one of the most popular dance and show bands in the Southeast - the high energy Sound Express - which besides playing classic New Orleans jazz tunes, will swing into Top 40 hits interspersed with show-stopping vocals and dance music.
Chef Mark Elliott, of Elliott's on Linden, has pursued the New Orleans theme by offering such delicacies as shrimp and grits, crawfish bisque, spicy crab cakes and remoulade, with a selection of Louisiana French sausages (boudin) and jambalaya, and seafood and chicken choices. Desserts will feature French Quarter beignets, and whiskey-spiked raisin bread pudding. Libations include beer and wine, with tasting stations adding an unusual flair to the evening.
Well-known South Carolina auctioneer Matt Holliday will once again put on a show of his own as he entices partygoers to bid for an unusual array of items in the live auction.
The Spa at Carolina Skin Care has donated "A Rejuvenating Botox Party and Girls' Night Out," and there's a wine dinner for eight at Elliott's on Linden, including limousine service.
Bidders can take their choice of a wonderful trio of vacations, including a week's stay at a luxurious condo in Palm Desert, Calif.; or a stay in the mountains at Banner Elk; or a sojourn at Ocean Isle Beach.
More than 100 items have been assembled for an impressive silent auction - everything from a decorated birdhouse to a pie plate from Ben Owen III Pottery to hot air balloon rides, or a round of golf and four MVP tickets to a Durham Bulls ball game. A brand new pinball machine is included in the selection of items as well as numerous gift certificates for various local restaurants
Best of all, some lucky person will end up the winner of a 2007 Mariah SX19 Bowrider. This classy boat has a sporty performance, plenty room for the family and is being raffled off as a special prize at the 2012 Mardi Gras. Tickets are $25 each or five for $100.
Major sponsors include St. Joseph of the Pines, AMDG LLC, Elliott's on Linden, The Sly Fox, Rue 32, Belli Bambini, Bill Smith Lincoln Ford, Sandhills Emergency Physicians, and Major and Mrs. Steve Battle.
Tickets are $75 per person, and may be purchased at Elliott's on Linden, in Pinehurst, or in Southern Pines at Belli Bambini, Pope John Paul II Catholic School and St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church's office. Tickets may also be purchased online at the school's website, www.jp2catholic school.org, or by calling (910) 692-6241.
Contact Pinehurst freelance writer Mary Elle Hunter at mhunter1055@ hotmail.com.
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