by Billy Bannon
Tables occupy Cemo auditorium like white discs littered across the floor. Candles stand in the center of each table, emitting a faint glow across their surface. Plates, laden with shrimp, steak, and mashed potatoes, courtesy of the restaurant Damian’s Cucina Italiana, circle the table’s rims, betwixt a knife and a fork. Music from the funky dance band Fidelity Maxx simmers in the background.
Gala chair Christi Quinn scans the elegant atmosphere and sighs with relief. A year of demanding hours on her part and the parts of many other volunteers has all led up to this moment: the inception of “Una Bella Notte,” a truly “beautiful night”.
On Saturday, Nov. 6, the school held its annual auction gala themed Una Bella Notte, Italian for “A Beautiful Night.” Gala chairs derived the title from a song featured in the classic Disney animated film Lady and the Tramp.
Quinn described the preparation process as long.
“There are many moving parts to pulling off the event,” she said. “The first and most important is pulling together a team of volunteers who work.”
on each segment, for example, acquisition of items for the silent and live auction, decorations, food, underwriting, publicity, catalogue, design and printing, tracking items donated, thank-you’s, bidding process/software and much more.”
The gala began in Reckling Gymnasium with a silent auction and ended in Cemo Auditorium with dinner and a live auction.
Guests enjoyed the savory meal as Don Nelson from Channel 13 chanted from the stage, introducing and auctioning a variety of packages.
Several years ago, Archbishop Fiorenza asked Nelson, a devout Catholic and a strong advocate of Catholic education, to host the live auction. He embraced the request enthusiastically.
Highlights of the evening include the dinner with Rev. Kevin Storey, C.S.B. package selling for $10,000, a precious puppy, which stole the heart of everyone present and sold for $3,250, and “Sergio’s Man Cave.”
As wives browsed and shopped in the silent auction, their husbands could recline in the basketball lounge for a fee of $50 and view the Texas A&M versus Oklahoma college football game on the large, flat television screen positioned against the wall. It cost $10 to change the channel.
Gala chairs named the item in honor of Facilities Manager Sergio Plata, who aids the Mother’s Club with every event.
The gala honored Mrs. Grace Testa Mondola, matriarch of the Mandola and Carrabba families.
“[Mandola’s] sons, many of her grandsons and nephews and even some cousins are St. Thomas alumni,” Quinn said. “Her family has a strong connection to St. Thomas and are tireless supporters. She was a loving and hard working mother and grandmother who epitomizes the spirit of the mothers of St. Thomas. Plus, she was a fabulous cook.”