'Alice in Wonderland' inspires an auction at this Westmoreland elementary school

DAVID F. ASHTON - Mad Hatters T.J. Slansky and Jason Mullenix pause for a picture with the Red Queen, Jennifer Slansky. It was a festive, "down the rabbit hole" experience at the historic Oaks Amusement Park Dance Pavilion, on Saturday evening March 18, when volunteers with the Llewellyn PTA and the Llewellyn Foundation held a "Mad Hatter's Ball and Auction".

Ball organizer Erika Morales credited her decorating committee for coming up with the theme, and praised the hundred parent volunteers who pitched in to make it a fun and successful fundraiser. "This is been in the planning process for about a year – really, since last year's auction. So many people in our school have been working together for the benefit of our kids."

The annual fundraiser is vital for the school's support groups, Morales told THE BEE. "Because of budget cuts, we lose teachers and classroom programs; this year we're looking at losing two or three teaching positions at our school.

"Our 'bidder's paddle raise' gathers money for directly funding teachers, and many of the auction item sales will go to help the PTA supplement educational learning tools and classes and activities."

Guests, many of them sporting extravagantly elegant haberdashery, circulated around the tables laden with scores of items up for bid in the silent auctions. As they did so, they chatted, while keeping an eye on their bids.

Then the buffet opened, and guests enjoyed an elegant dinner catered by Westmoreland's "Tinna's Classic Thai Cuisine".

Llewellyn Elementary School principal Joe Galati was all smiles. "I'm an educator in my 30th year; but coming here tonight, I feel young as spring – especially seeing the love the parents and community are showing for our school! To watch the enthusiasm, the passion and the desire for our parents to be here, and do what is best for kids – this night is magical."

By all measures, the fundraiser was successful -- with more than 240 tickets sold, Morales said. "Beyond just our parents, it's clear that everyone in the community has been so generous, and want to see our school succeed."

In total, the "Mad Hatters Ball" raised about $70,000 that evening to help the school.

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