Achieve’s ‘Night of 100 Dinners’ is Shaping up to be Spicy, Sweaty, and Silly

by The Village Green
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This Saturday marks the 12th annual Achieve Foundation of South Orange Maplewood’s Night of 100 Dinners, where residents host dinners and other events to raise private funds for public education in the school district. Donations start at $50 per ticket.

With all the creative thinkers in our towns, it would be naïve to expect some boring evening with “just dinner.” No, a cursory review of some of the events on deck shows hosts have not only big hearts, but a good collective sense of humor, health in mind, and a few ways around cramming too many people into their otherwise decent-sized homes.

“Don’t let the Irish rule March! Come Celebrate Achieve’s Night of 100 Dinners with a Cinco De Marzo Fiesta! Tacos! Beer! El Chapo! (Sadly this guest has been rescheduled),” joked one invite.

Other parties offer unique culinary tastes from around the world: an early St. Patrick’s Day dinner, an Ethiopian dinner for families with games and fun for kids (the hosts have generously provided baby sitters, too!). Still more events will be taking guests to Mexico: one features “Sombrero Night” (hat optional).

Robin Peacock, Co-Chair of Night of 100 Dinners 2016, spoke of a non-traditional party on the roster: a pizza truck parked in the host’s driveway for 70 guests, where the Lombardi Company will be baking and serving up pies to the hungry masses.

One family is using the event to “break in” their brand new kitchen (that’s what it’s for, right?), while another promised singing and gambling. Another has put together the clues to help guests solve a murder mystery at their dinner party; they really put some preproduction into their evening, and sent out character information last month.

Last weekend’s Academy Awards telecast served as the base-note for one fundraiser. In the tradition of NOAHD costume and dress-up parties, “Red Carpet attire” was requested, and a professional photographer was on hand.

While many events are co-ed, some single out the ladies for a good time – as this reporter did last year, when I hired a gifted Mehndi (henna) artist to create intricate designs on guests as they sipped champagne. But when the thought of fitting 30 ladies (plus gentleman, this year) into my home started giving me hives, I sought out the good Father Jim of Saint Joseph’s Church and asked him to loan me and South Orange-based yoga teacher and Self Reboot founder Dawn Lorentz the church’s Bernard Hall for as many yoga mats and wine bottles as we could fit in the large space. Un-wine-d was born.

Perhaps the first Night of 100 Dinners to open itself up to the public, Un-wine-d will feature a 60-minute vinyasa yoga class followed by a ten-minute guided meditation, then wine, light eats, and the camaraderie that comes with doing something good for someone else. (Don’t have an invite to a NOAHD event? Want one? Join us! RSVP here: https://evite.me/RBppJqdybd – Donate here: www.TinyURL.com/unwined2016 – or bring a check made out to “Achieve Foundation of South Orange Maplewood”).

There is at least one other fitness event on the menu: a daytime spin (indoor cycling) party at a local school, followed by food and drinks that evening. Marilyn Wright, the programming coordinator for the Home and School Association (HSA) at CHS, organized this event.

“I am a true spinner at heart,” she said. “In speaking with [SOMSD Physical Education director] Judy Lobianco about possible programming events, I learned that Judy had received a large grant which afforded her the opportunity to purchase lots of Physical Education equipment, including 40 brand new spin bikes.”

Wright was referred to Marv Alexander, a certified spin instructor who runs a spin program at CHS that is open to students, teachers and community members. “So, that’s where the Achieve Spin event came into play,” notes Wright. “It’s the best of both worlds: fundraising and physical development.” She also liked the idea of doing something outside of the normal dinner party. As her spin for Achieve event is in the morning, it allows attendees to donate and ride early, and still attend any dinner parties they are hosting or invited to in the evening. As of this writing, there were still 8 out of 40 bikes open. If interested, RSVP here, today: https://4elbows.formstack.com/forms/100dinners_2016?field39257499=WRIGHT.

From four courses with wine pairings, to yoga and Spin, to silly hats, The Night of 100 dinners is hoping to raise over $75,000 for the Achieve Foundation. As of last week, $35,000 had come in, with the majority expected through next week.

And local restaurants are lending a hand as well to benefit Achieve. Verjus, The Maplewood Grille, and Bunny’s Sports Bar are all donating a percentage of their net proceeds to Achieve on the following dates and times: The Maplewood Grille, 149 Maplewood Avenue in Maplewood; Tuesday, March 8th, from 2:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m.: Bunny’s Sports Bar, 14 West South Orange Avenue in South Orange (donation based on food purchases only). There is no invitation required for these dates and times: show up at any (or all) of the restaurants at the specified dates and times, mention you are there for Achieve’s Night of 100 Dinners, and enjoy as usual.

Achieve’s Executive Director, Deborah Prinz, was appreciative. ““Every year, we get inquiries from people in the community who want to participate in the event but aren’t able to host or attend a party,” she said. “Our Night of 100 Dinners Restaurant Hosts are creating an opportunity for anyone – even whole families – to be a part of it.  We welcome the support of these generous local businesses and hope that this great cause will increase their patronage.”

Want to learn more about The Night of 100 Dinners, hosting a party, the Achieve Foundation and supporting public education with funds to help our kids? Visit www.achievefoundation.org for more information.

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