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Mardi Gras gala brings in $450K for Epilepsy Foundation

| Sunday, March 9, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Proving that there actually is something to look forward to in the dead of winter, the Epilepsy Foundation Western/Central Pennsylvania basked in the rays of a Mardi Gras gala that achieved sellout status three months in advance.

“We actually had a waiting list and had to turn people away,” said prexy Judy Painter.

Collectively toasting their decision not to procrastinate, a swell of 700 buzzed inside the Westin's ballroom on March 4. There, an explosion of visual candy hit squarely between the eyes: a formerly lonely ceiling danced with bouncy paper lanterns and 6,000 helium balloons in punchy purple, green and yellow. Tabletops were buried under a sea of swag — masks, feverishly blinking sequined hats, feather boas and, of course, the coveted beads.

“I just got here! I haven't even gotten any yet,” said former Steeler Charlie Batch, laughing, as he and Joey Porter slid in fashionably late.

On cue, master of ceremonies Jim Roddey (enjoying his 14th year at the helm) did his official duty of:

1. Trying to wrangle a crowd clearly in the mood to party.

2. Introducing David andCindy Shapira as king and queen of the gala.

Bucking the tradition of statement-worthy entrances, this year's royalty instead opted for a humble ascent to the throne.

“I'm not really the crown type,” Cindy confessed.

With room-cruising trumping any interest in sitting still, the John Parker Band didn't miss a beat — keeping the night moving to the tune of a record-shattering $450K for the Epilepsy Foundation.

Spotted were local board chairwoman Deb Rice-Johnson, national board chairman Warren Lammert, David and Gabriela Porges, Dr. Freddie and Hilda Fu, Greg Barrett, Laura Schreiner and her son, Casey, Jim Broadhurst, Bill andVivian Benter, Tom Grealish, David and Gina Pferdehirt, and Don andAlana Deane.

Kate Benz is the social columnist for Trib Total Media and can be reached at, 412-380-8515 or via Twitter: @KateBenzTRIB.

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