Derby Night fundraiser planned

Published 7:18 pm Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Kentucky Derby might be a 10-hour drive away from Suffolk, but it will play a central role in an upcoming nonprofit fundraiser.

Project Lifesaver, which provides peace of mind to families affected by conditions such as autism and Alzheimer’s that make their loved ones prone to wander, will hold its Project Lifesaver Derby Night on May 6 at The First Lady of Suffolk, 447 W. Washington St.

The event will include a social hour beginning at 5:30 p.m., prior to the viewing of the horse race on the 70-inch television screen. The race will be followed by a full evening of heavy hors d’oeuvres, music, dancing and a silent auction.

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Project Lifesaver is a program that outfits people prone to wandering with devices that emit a trackable signal. The program also supplies each Suffolk fire station with equipment that can locate the tracking devices, allowing them to be found much more quickly than if they did not have the devices.

In Suffolk, the program is provided free to participants thanks to fundraisers like this one.

Susan Blair, a Project Lifesaver board member, said the original plan was to do a luau-themed fundraiser like previous events.

“We moved it from a Friday night to a Saturday night, and we realized it was on Kentucky Derby day,” she said. She suggested the new theme to the board, and they immediately ran with it.

“We’re hoping this will be our signature event,” she said. “We kind of need something that’s our signature event.”

Besides the horse race, the event will feature some attractive contests and silent auction experiences.

Folks will be able to “bet” on their favorites horses by purchasing tickets and putting their tickets in the cup for their favorite horse.

“There’s going to be some type of Kentucky Derby winnings, if you will, on the winning horse,” Blair said.

Perhaps most attractive among the silent auction items is a dining experience with Lt. Joe Kenda of the popular television series “Homicide Hunter.”

The winning bidder and a guest will dine with Kenda and his wife at the home of Blair and her husband, Joe Alvarez. Alvarez will prepare a multi-course, authentic Italian dinner, and Blair will be the waitress.

“People can sit for hours on end and just sit and pick his brain,” Blair said. “He has the gift of gab, so he’ll be right in his element. I think that’s priceless, because so many people, all they want to do is just sit and pick his brain.”

That auction item will specifically go toward a fund to purchase a drone with tracking equipment to help find missing people faster.

“We feel like with Suffolk being so rural, if we have an aerial scout, we will be able to find them much more quickly than on foot,” Blair said. “If it saves one life, it’s paid for itself.”

Another auction item featuring Kenda will allow the winning bidder to have Kenda record their cellphone voicemail greeting with his signature voice.

A variety of other silent auction items and experiences will be available at the event as well.

Tickets to the event are $35. Visit for more information.