Stars bright for Starlight

Rani Gupta

So he didn’t come bounding up to the stage. And the only response he had when he won a trip to Orlando was “Um…”

But McCormick freshman Andrew Kou said he was happy to win Suitcase Party’s grand prize, a trip for two to Orlando that left shortly after the philanthropy event wound up at 1 a.m. Friday.

“I am excited. I’m just not an emotional person,” said Kou, who did not immediately know which one of his suitemates he would take with him as the party ended.

The Orlando trip was one of seven auctioned off to excited winners at the party, which attracted 1,300 students and raised $38,307 – an increase of $15,000 over last year’s total – for the Starlight Children’s Foundation.

“I”m a fifth-year senior, so I’ve been to five of these and you don’t ever think that you’re going to win,” said McCormick senior PJ Kennedy, who won a ski trip to Salt Lake City.

Weinberg freshman Jackie Griffith ran to the stage screaming and laughing when she won her prize to San Francisco.

“I’m so excited! I just can’t believe it!” Griffith said. “Three (more) of my tickets won tonight.”

Shortly before the trip winners were announced, the Suitcase Party executive board presented the check to a representative of the Starlight Children’s Foundation. The organization grants wishes and provides entertainment and services for seriously ill children.

The total raised surprised even the executive board members of Suitcase Party.

“We had our internal expectations and (the total) blew even those away,” said Executive Co-Chairman Marty Christensen, a Weinberg senior.

At 11 p.m., Carlie DesiMonday, a child granted her wish for a trip to Acapulco, spoke about her experiences with the Starlight Foundation.

“I cannot express enough gratitude,” Desimon said. “You’re going to make the dreams of thousands of kids come true.”

The party also featured a pie-in-the-face contest. Students donated money for a chance to toss pies at such well-known campus figures as Associated Student Government President Adam Humann and economics lecturer Mark Witte.

Bobb-McCulloch Hall Area Coordinator Dan Barnett had the most money donated on his behalf, and McCormick sophomore Courtney Lytle nailed him with a blueberry pie.

“Based on my position in the building, I figured I could raise a lot of money,” Barnett said. “It’s been a very active year judicially.”

Lytle, who lives in Bobb, said she threw the pie “on behalf of all the residents.”

“It was a very thorough throw. I got (pie) not only the face, but (on) the entire head,” she said. “It was an extremely satisfying experience.”

Party attendees also enjoyed music by Tim Mahoney, Tippler Contingent and Pineapple Grass Bracelets.

“I’m from Minnesota, so all my friends from high school love Tim Mahoney,” said Weinberg sophomore Sarah Creighton. “But it’s kind of weird because no one (here) really knows who he is.”

For Medill junior Shannon Kelly, a high point of the evening was the food, which was donated from area restaurants including Philly’s Best and Dave’s Italian Kitchen.

“I definitely got my money’s worth,” Kelly said. “I shouldn’t have gone to dinner tonight.”

Almost as popular as the food table was the prizes table, where almost 80 prizes were given away. Students gathered there throughout the night waiting for winning numbers to be announced.

“I had really bad luck in the housing lottery, so I’m hoping to turn my luck around,” said Jaime Huling, a Weinberg freshman.

Some who won Thursday night had predicted victory.

“I knew it was coming,” said Weinberg sophomore Jason Hall, who won dinner at Dixie Kitchen and two tickets to the Improv Olympics. “I was telling everyone I had at least a 50-50 shot of winning.”