- Shannon Donnelly Daily News Society Editor
If the mass defection of charity balls will change Mar-a-Lago this social season, there was no evidence at Saturday night’s dinner dance for the Achilles Freedom Team of Wounded Vets.
The Bentleys, Maseratis and Rolls-Royces still made the slow, cautious turn into the graveled driveway, lined on both sides with an unbroken line of American flags in honor of the night’s patriotic theme.
The event originally was slated for Nov. 30. But last week’s opened up after the Lady in Red gala for philanthropist Lois Pope’s LIFE Foundation decided to leave Mar-a-Lago, following President Donald Trump’s controversial Charlottesville, Va., comments this summer.
Men and women in formal dress — many wearing a chestful of medals — still made their way to the Grand Ballroom through the gilded living room and along the terrace, where club members were dining al fresco.
Rather than poolside or the Post ballroom, the usual pre-dinner venues, the cocktail reception and silent auction took place in a roped-off section of the Grand Ballroom.
This reception-and-dinner-in-the-same-room is an effective visual trick for disguising a poor turnout, but that didn’t seem to be an issue here. Attendance looked to be close to 400 — pretty remarkable for an event which, until Saturday night, took place in somebody’s backyard.
Granted, a Palm Beach backyard, but still …
In addition to the silent auction and cocktail reception —with music by Gypsy Kings guitarist Gyorgy — the evening included the Florida Sea Cadets color guard, remarks from chairwomen Mary Bryant McCourt and Robin Saltzman, dinner (a surf-and-turf of sea scallops and filet), dessert (a triple plate of deconstructed strawberry shortcake, ice cream and that oh-so-famous chocolate cake) and dancing to the music of Soul Survivor.
The night’s highlight was the presentation of honors to local World War II veterans Dick Schmeelk, Irvin Saltzman, Jerome Nelinson, Sumner Hushing Jr., George Fisher, Harold Lynn, Howard “Scrappy” Johnson, Franklin W. Simon, and Wayne P. Jackson, who walked away from colleges, families, law practices and farms to answer the country’s call. They fought the fight, bandaged their wounds, retrieved their fallen, returned home and continued their lives with nary a whine.
There’s a lesson for us all in there.
Proceeds assist Achilles in its mission to enable people of all ages to participate in mainstream athletics in order to promote personal achievement, enhance self-esteem and lower barriers to living a fulfilling life.