Decked out in everything from blue jeans to sparkling diamond chokers, more than 300 people attended the Denim and Diamonds gala, the second annual fundraiser to benefit The University of Texas-Pan American women's athletic program and scholarships.
Held Oct. 11 at the Shary-Shivers Estate, the event was organized by the Women's Athletic Fundraisers (WAF) and offered food, a live band, door prizes and casino games as well as an extensive array of donated items available through blackboard and silent auctions.
"Dr. Susan Griffith, director of institutional research and effectiveness and chairman of WAF, came up with the idea and our first event - the masquerade ball held last year - raised $15,000 for the athletic program and $1,500 for the Ann LaMantia Endowed Scholarship for women," Carey said.
The gala utilized many of the female student athletes as volunteer workers at the event, Carey said, because the patrons like to mingle with the athletes and see first-hand who they are providing the funds for. According to Carey, the students also have a blast.
As she manned one of the work shifts at a blackboard auction table, student athlete Heather Bravo, a freshman volleyball player from Las Vegas, Nevada said she thought this was good idea for a fund raiser. "They don't do this in Las Vegas," Bravo said.
Other volunteers frantically filled in the boards as hot bidding occurred for 40 items such as Continental airline tickets or the use of a South Padre Island condo for a weekend. Decorative items and lessons in several sports from UTPA coaches were among the many items that could also be won with the highest bid. Other female student athletes manned the registration table or served food and drinks to the crowd. As the evening wore down, they joined other dancers on the dance floor to the music of "Out of Sync."
Chrissie Carrigan, a freshman volleyball player from Canada, said the gala was a smart idea and helped the teams get things like new uniforms and the gym floor refinished. "This is different - not like a regular fundraiser," Carrigan said.
WAF has committed $20,000 from this year's event to the women's athletic program and a portion to the newly established Fifth-Year Scholarship program to help athletes who have completed their eligibility to finish their education.
"As part of the Fifth Year Scholarship program we have also started a payroll deduction program across campus for this. In addition, we have a web site www.waf.panam.edu where donations can be made," Carey said.
Tracy Anderson, associate head basketball coach, said the benefit of the event to the athletic program is twofold - it provides financial support allowing it to be more competitive and it shows the athletes that there is a lot of respect and support for them from the administration and the area.
"These are really fine young women - they are great in the classroom and great representatives of our institution," Anderson said.