|At Ducal Gala 2010, columnist and reigning Grand Duchess Pollo Del Mar (center) is flanked by (L to R) Joie De Vivre, Grand Duchess candidate Cookie Dough, Miss Gold Rush 2009 Anjie Myma and the winner of the Ducal Councilâ€™s â€śCourt Member of the Year
Notorious Sainted Glamazon About Town
Nearly every weekend for the past year, I have either planned, attended or performed at a fundraiser â€“ and many weeks involved more than one such event.
Of course, I knew this was expected of me last September, when I was elected Grand Duchess, a figurehead fundraising position within the 37-year-old nonprofit Grand Ducal Council of San Francisco. So without giving it much thought, I hunkered down and hit the ground running in hopes of making a difference in the lives of people in our community.
Grand Duke Patrick Noonan and I set a lofty goal early on. What seemed like an outrageous, perhaps even unattainable $25,000 was the original benchmark we hoped to divide between our numerous charity beneficiaries. And, one drag show, beer bust, raffle ticket and jello shot at a time, we inched closer to the desired amount.
The process was exhausting but rewarding, that much is for sure. As our fundraising efforts progressed, we were introduced to some incredible people. Through a series of Ducal Council-sponsored competitions, philanthropic-minded members of our community raised money to win titles like â€śRoyal Bunnyâ€ť and â€śWhite Knight.â€ť
It amazed me then â€“ and still does, quite frankly â€” how veritable strangers were so inspired by the fundraising efforts Patrick and I were undertaking, they threw themselves behind us completely. Never once did anyone suggest our goals were out of reach. Instead, they asked how they might helpâ€¦and did all they could to do so.
Soon those individuals, too, were giving up their weekends to make a difference. Together we brought in even more funds for those nonprofits struggling in this crazy economy to meet their expenses.
At some point, I will admit though, the fundraising became more of a numbers game to me than anything else. Of course, I was aware every dollar raised would benefit some small group of individuals in need. However, somewhere along the way, it became less about helping others and more about competitively pushing myself to reach the finish line we laid out.
Itâ€™s easy to fall into this trap, I suppose, when the monies raised are immediately placed for safe-keeping in a corporate bank account and held for distribution later in the year. As has been the case for nearly four-decades, the Grand Ducal Council gives out the majority of the funds collected at its annual Gala, the same night it announces candidates for the following yearâ€™s Grand Duke and Grand Duchess.
Ducal Gala 2010 was held Sun., Aug. 29, at Encore Karaoke Lounge. A packed house of fund recipients, supporters, Imperial and Ducal Council members and our friends gathered to commemorate the incredible success of Patrickâ€™s and my reign as Grand Duke and Grand Duchess and celebrate with us as we disbursed the balance of our fundraising â€“ in excess of $32,000!
It was in preparation for that evening that it once again started to creep into my head just how significant our work had actually been. When contacting representatives of our primary beneficiaries â€“ organizations such as Under One Roof, Rocket Dog Rescue, Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center and Black Coalition on AIDS â€“ the responses were overwhelmingly enthusiastic.
â€śEvery penny counts!â€ť Curtis Moore, Executive Director of Bay Area Young Positives, reminded me in a text message exchange prior to the event when I apologized for raising â€śonly $750â€ť for his organization. â€śThat money will feed our clients for a month!â€ť
That what amounted to one day of drag, a single afternoon of fun for my friends and me, could feed an entire nonprofitâ€™s clientele for weeks lingered in my mind at Ducal Gala.
There we introduced our incredible candidate for Grand Duke â€“ reigning Mr. Royal Baby Jason Husted â€“ and two fabulous candidates for Grand Duchess, Ana Mae Coxx and Cookie Dough. We saw performances by reigning Miss San Francisco Gold Rush 2010 Rotissary Ethnicity Jackson-Houston Ross, the Rice Rockettes, and a duet by Miss Royal Baby 2010 Carnitas Will-Sin and Miss Debutante 2010 Kitty Tapata which brought down the house.
We also announced the yearâ€™s Ducal Council and Court award-winners. Princess Royale Miso Hornay took home the Joe Cote Memorial Court Member of the Year Award. Grand Duchess XXXVI Landa Lakes snagged the Trixie Trash Workhorse of the Year honors. The Lifetime Achievement Award went to Keith and Gladys Bumps, so chosen for more than a decade of consistent support of the Grand Ducal Council.
Still, the focus of the evening unquestionably remained on the fundraising â€” and I choked up repeatedly. I had to dab my eyes when awarding $1,300 to LYRIC, found it difficult to speak when giving an amazing $3,100 to Father Lyle Beckman of San Francisco Night Ministry and my voice broke entirely granting $1,600 to the Native American AIDS Project. When presenting $1,750 to my friend Terry Beswick of the Castro Country Club, I wept openly.
In the crowd, many others were taken to the brink of tears as well watching me onstage, unable to control myself. The emotions were running high for us all when, after such an incredible year of effort and dedication, we saw the appreciation from those whose work the money we raised will fund.
While in front of the crowd I managed to hold it together for the most part, I didnâ€™t fare as well when I slipped to the back of the room for a piece of cake. Shoveling it in as quickly as I could between presenting the checks, a woman representing Camp Sunburst â€“ a summer camp for children infected and affected by HIV/AIDS â€“ approached me. The $2,000 check we presented was still in her hands.
â€śI want to thank you so much for your generosity and hard work,â€ť she said, hugging me. â€śThis check is going to send two kids to camp next year â€“ and that can make such a difference in their lives.â€ť
At the thought of two young children being able to forget about life-threatening illness for a moment and just be kids for a summer, I lost all my composure. I cried without caring as people around me graciously offered tissues.
When Patrick and I started our fundraising last fall, that understanding â€“ knowledge I had somehow changed someoneâ€™s life through my work â€“ was all I really wanted. When the moment finally arrived, I was overwhelmed. I realized it wasnâ€™t just anotherâ€™s life I had changed.
The experience changed mine as well.
Follow â€śThe Glamazonâ€ť on http://www.Twitter.com/TheGlamazonPDM. Email her directly at Pollo_DelMar@Yahoo.com.