Event raises record amount for charity

AIKEN --- The 13th annual celebrity waiter night set records.


Organizers of the event -- which raised money for Children's Place -- say the May 12 fundraiser set two records: most money raised overall and a new high for one participating restaurant.

More than $72,000 was collected for Children's Place, a nonprofit organization that focuses on children's services, and nearly $17,000 of that came from Casabella Italian Restaurant.

It was the first year Casabella, in downtown Aiken, has participated in the fundraiser, and it was the first year for a group of SRS workers who spearheaded that record-breaking drive.

Peggy Ford, executive director of Children's Place, praised the celebrity waiters. "We were really thrilled for the children," she said. "It was a grand night."

This year, the 137 guest waiters who donated their tips worked in 11 participating restaurants, Ms. Ford said.

The group also had sponsorships and auctioned off jewelry to beat the previous fundraising record, which was $68,000.

The previous single restaurant record high was about $14,000, she said.

The waiters staffing the tables at Casabella were from the Shaw AREVA MOX Services team working at Savannah River Site.

The president of the team, David Stinson, said the restaurant workers helped teach his celebrity waiters how to serve the customers.

But Floyd Bartoe, the team's waiter coordinator, said they just wanted to beat last year's winning group.

Last year's winning team included John Paveglio from Energy Solutions, who challenged the Shaw team to beat their earnings, according to Mr. Bartoe.

"Since he's a great friend of mine, I took it personally, to the point of convincing our subcontractors that they had to help Children's Place and in the process win that plaque," Mr. Bartoe said.

Children's Place intends to use the money raised this year to pay for therapy for the children they help.

The United Way agency provides day-care services, including meals and speech, occupational, behavioral and play therapy, for at-risk children in Aiken County.

Ms. Ford said the fundraiser will pay for about 1,500 hours of therapy in the coming year.

Reach Sandi Martin at (803) 648-1395, ext. 111, or sandi.martin@augustachronicle.com.