What's In Your Hat a fundraiser for Las Trampas in Lafayette
By Lou Fancher
Ariel Bellet knows exactly how it feels to pull $10,000 out of a hat. "It's fun and important," the 30-year-old Las Trampas client says.
The two words, "fun" and "important," are the perfect way to describe "What's In Your Hat," the annual fundraiser at which Bellet once drew -- and gave away to one lucky guest -- the $10,000 grand prize.
The theme of the 27th annual event is "Luck Be a Lady," and features ABC News anchor Dan Ashley as emcee, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin impersonators, live music by Generations in Jazz, a silent auction, buffet, sparkling wine and the celebrated hat drawing April 26, at the Lafayette Park Hotel & Spa.
Las Trampas was founded as a residential school for children with developmental disabilities in 1958. Named after the creek that runs behind the three-and-a-half-acre Lafayette property, the nonprofit provides independent living and vocational programs and operates five, six-bedroom homes in Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek for adults with moderate behavioral concerns.
Bellet says her work in a vocational training classroom is significant. Accepting cartons of hotel-size toiletry bottles and cleaning, relabeling and distributing them to homeless and family resource shelters helps people less fortunate than she is, Bellet says.
In a nearby room, another client places folders into a handicap accessible shredder, earning $8 a carton for the organization, a portion of which winds up in his pocket.
"We allow our people to work," says development director Kathy Merchant.
Every person under the Las Trampas roof wants meaningful work, close relationships, and a safe place to live, Merchant says.
The fundraiser largely supports staffing, programming and van expenses for outings. Last year Las Trampas raised almost $105,000, the goal for this year's event.
"It's absolutely critical," Merchant says. "Government subsidies have declined so much we're at 1999 funding levels."
She says state and federal support barely pay living expenses for disabled adults. Having a vocational program determines work force rates, something the state examines carefully for apportioning funding to nonprofits like Las Trampas. In addition to the shredding business, a carwash, bottle recycling program, and work that cleans up area parks and sports fields keeps everyone busy and contributing.
"It also gives our people pocket money. It's the highlight of their week when they go to the bank on payday," Merchant says.
Like any nonprofit devoted to an underserved community, Las Trampas has tremendous needs and invaluable volunteers. Instructors are needed to teach the staff how to implement new, expanded assisted technology allowing the more impaired members to work. A vegetable garden started by a Girl Scout troop and the Lafayette Garden Club that is used as a teaching classroom and a source for lunch one day a week needs plants and funds.
Pat Flaharty, a chef from Moraga who teaches a weekly cooking class; thirty-somethings who will volunteer at the fundraiser; and the many other volunteers who dedicate time and energy to Las Trampas need to be recognized, Merchant says.
Topping off the hat tricks, Las Trampas can boast another great feature: tickets to the celebration are $100, the same price as in the 1990s. One free hat drawing is included and the cost is 50 percent deductible.
"You can buy early and also bid on a case of six bottles of Opus One 1986 wine, appraised for $2,000," Merchant says.
Or, you can try your luck and hope your $10,000 ticket is drawn by one of the remarkable people from Las Trampas.