Chocolate & Champagne
Getting sweet on Easter Seals shows community love
Chocolate lovers, prepare to spend an evening sipping bubbly and indulging your sweet tooth.
The 9th Annual Chocolate & Champagne Affair is on Saturday, March 21, at Margaritaville Resort Casino in Bossier City. The event is a night of live music, dancing, a live and silent auction, and sparkling champagne and decadent morsels from local vendors to raise money for Easter Seals.
Bernie Bitting, Easter Seals special events coordinator, says the after-dinner fundraiser stands out from the traditional banquetstyle events. “It involves the community by getting the chocolate vendors on board to present a dessert that they promote in their business,” she said.
Attendees can expect to sample tasty bites from confectionaries around the city that include Brookshire’s, Cake Bites by Jamee, Candy Galore and More, Julie Anne’s Bakery, Prep Cakes Bakery, Retro 521 Coffee Café & Venue, Glenwood Tea Room and The Wooden Spoon.
“In the past, we’ve had chocolate ice cream and sorbet, brownies, little chocolate bites, vegan and healthier items from Prep Cakes, and chocolate-covered strawberries. One year we even had chocolate-covered bacon. It’s really up to the vendor and what they want to showcase,” said Bitting. “It’s a great opportunity for them to show off all the things that they can do.”
For the past six years, a community supporter is honored at the sugary shindig with the Easter Seals Lily Award for dedication to those with special needs. “This year, we will honor John and Lynne Manno for all of their work in the community and for what they do to support the people around them,” said Easter Seals Marketing and Communications Manager MacKenzie Morgan. “They own Southland Printing, so they’ve been in this community for a long time. Mr. Manno has donated quite a bit to Easter Seals and our mission, but he’s also supported many other organizations.”
John Manno has been involved with several local nonprofits and served on multiple boards. He says many organizations cannot financially support themselves, and he enjoys working on getting them in good financial standing, either through his involvement or with his financial assistance.
“When I leave this world, I want to be able to say to myself – and maybe people will be able to say this about me – he left the community in better shape than when he arrived,” said Manno. “I like to see organizations that provide goods or services to the community to be able to do their good work and be very successful.”
Past Lily Award honorees include Sid Potts, Waynette Ballangee, Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator, John and Jane Hubbard, Hedy Hebert and Jennifer Norwood.
“Easter Seals is a special organization because we support everybody with different disabilities, not just physical, but intellectual. We also have a housing program that supports those who are homeless or have co-occurring disabilities or disorders,” said Morgan. “This past year alone, we supported more than 10,000 people across the state. There are not a lot of organizations that can say that.”
Ninety-one percent of funds raised for Easter Seals go toward direct services. Morgan says thanks to this year’s wonderful sponsors, all of the funds raised at Chocolate & Champagne will go toward direct services. Event sponsors include KTAL NBC 6, Blue Cross Blue Shield Louisiana, Southland Printing and Margaritaville Resort Casino.
“The money we are raising goes to direct services – whether a portion of it goes to campership (Camp Able is a camp our youth can go to that we sponsor), to helping people navigate through the health-care system and get the help they need,” said Bitting. “We start from babies up to the elderly.”
Founded in 1919, Easter Seals provides disability services to help children and adults with physical and intellectual disabilities achieve independence. Additional support areas serve military veterans and families, seniors and caregivers. The organization provides home and community-based resources and support to more than a million people annually across the United States, as well as through international partners in Australia, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Canada.
The 9th Annual Chocolate & Champagne Affair is Saturday, March 21, at Margaritaville Resort Casino’s Paradise Theater. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and the event begins at 7 p.m. Tickets to the event start at $50.