The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Lifestyle

October 18, 2012

Benefits can flow both ways at celeb charity galas

— LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Beverly Hilton's International Ballroom will soon be filled with flowers, chiffon, fine china and crystal stemware for a starry black-tie ball costing couples as much as $20,000 to attend. Guests such as George Clooney, Quincy Jones, Jane Fonda and Magic Johnson will mingle with business and community leaders and maybe bid on the new Mercedes-Benz offered in the silent auction.

And it's all for charity. Or is it? Swanky, star-studded galas like Saturday's 26th Carousel of Hope in Beverly Hills and Alicia Keys' annual Black Ball next month at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom are stalwarts in the world of nonprofits. Yet for many guests, the benefits can far exceed the benevolence.

Such balls have helped raise millions of dollars for nonprofit agencies around the world. But they're much more than philanthropy for the rich and famous. Valuable business opportunities flow right along with the vintage Champagne, including networking, deal-making, image enhancement and, of course, tax deductions.

"As long as people are looking to curry favor with certain people and get on good terms with certain people, these things will still be popular," said Daniel Borochoff, president of CharityWatch, a nonprofit charity watchdog group.

But he adds, "There are also altruistic people who want to help the cause, as well."

Barbara Davis, the 82-year-old chairwoman and host of Carousel of Hope, considers herself in the latter group. She started the Children's Diabetes Foundation in 1977 when her daughter, Dana, was diagnosed with the disease.

When Davis broke the news of their daughter's condition to her husband, the late oil and entertainment tycoon Marvin Davis, "he said, 'Take care of it,'" she recalled. So she started raising money and held the first Carousel of Hope event in 1978 in Denver.

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