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When Balls Collide

Three of Richmond's toniest nonprofit galas are inexplicably competing for attention -- and contributions — on what's become the most crowded night on the social calendar: Friday, Oct. 5.

How did it happen? "Your guess is as good as mine," says Tamsen Kingry, chief operating officer for the Richmond SPCA. The nonprofit's Fur Ball, in its ninth year, has always been the first Friday of October, she says.

Last year's event sold out at 415 and raised $370,000 for the Richmond SPCA's Cinderella Fund, which helps severely sick and injured homeless animals that are brought to the SPCA. Tickets to the event at the Jefferson Hotel are $175.

Last year, the Fur Ball shared the night with The Make-a-Wish Foundation Celestial Ball, now in its 10th year.

"We used to pretty much own that night," says Karen Webb, president and chief executive of the Make-a-Wish Foundation of Central and Western Virginia. "And then other people started coming in on top of it, and boy, have we seen the effects of it."

About 500 people party at Dover Hall in Manakin to help raise $150,000-$200,000, Webb says, but some sponsors must now choose between events.

Organizers typically try to coordinate as well as possible "so that they're not stepping on another event's toes," says Rhea George, spokeswoman for the Science Museum of Virginia, whose foundation is holding its second Kugel Ball. Tickets are $225 to the black-tie event at the museum's Barbara and William B. Thalhimer Pavilion.

Some 400 people attended last year's inaugural fundraiser Sept. 15, which pulled in about $100,000. Organizers moved the date this year after hearing feedback from supporters, George says, "and determined this was a prime evening."

Unfortunately, she says, there was crossover. But a growing Richmond can support multiple events, she says — and people can still donate to any cause.

The Fur Ball and Celestial Ball are listed on the shared calendar of Connect Richmond, an umbrella organization for nonprofits. The Kugel Ball isn't posted.

After the glitter is swept up and the live-auction results tallied, perhaps the nonprofits can plan for next year. But the SPCA has dibs on Oct. 3, 2008 — the first Friday of the month. "We don't intend to change the date," Kingry says.

  • Watch out, Hillary: More unwanted headlines are on the way with the Nov. 20 release of Richmonder Kathleen Willey's book, "Target: In the Crosshairs of Bill and Hillary Clinton." Willey tells us she's finished the story (was proofing over Labor Day weekend), to be published by World Ahead press.

    Willey met Bill Clinton at a fundraiser for then-Lt. Gov. Doug Wilder in Charlottesville. When Clinton was president, she alleged that he groped her in the Oval Office in 1993. She says his face turned red when she made an exit. Willey's book will tell that story and more — including new allegations of threats against her to stay quiet.

  • Richmond booze trivia: What was the first drink Toad's Place served under its liquor license obtained Aug. 24? A gimlet ($6), sold to James Eastman who was celebrating the occasion. The graphic designer has worked on ads for the new venue, general manager Jeff Sadler says. The first load of liquor Sadler picked up, he says, was for the George Thorogood concert: "Of course it was Jim Beam and Johnny Walker."



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