I have absolutely no business being at a fancy gala where thousands of dollars are changing hands BUT I somehow ended up at one this past weekend.

Here’s how it happened.

Friends of mine — The Elrods — had gotten a table at an annual gala that’s a fundraiser for St. Mary’s School. Their kids go to the school so they were going to attend this fancy-schmancy dinner and auction held at Georgia Highlands College. They invited someone who backed out at the last minute so I got second-hand invited to go.

Y’all know me and my croc-wearing, Dollar General-shopping, Esom Hill-visiting self. Ain’t NOTHING about Severo that says fancy fundraising gala. BUT when my friend said the tickets were already paid for and there would be free food and drinks I couldn’t turn that down. So I threw on some church clothes and showed up.

I have never been to this event before but let me tell y’all, I was impressed. I was raised Roman Catholic but admittedly I’m what you’d call a “fallen Catholic.” I have zero affiliation with St. Mary’s School. I don’t have kids that go there and I don’t really have any dealings with the school.

Having said that, let me tell you about this event. It was called A Knight in Hollywood so they were going for a red carpet, Hollywood glam theme. There was an actual red carpet as you entered the building and a photographer was there to snap some photos of people looking fancy in their nice clothes. One guy wore jeans and boots and a cowboy hat and he was my favorite person there since he wasn’t puttin’ on airs. He was wearing what he was comfortable in and I respect that.

But most other people were dressed up. Some in black tie and some in less formal outfits. One girl in a red dress looked like she was going to prom circa 1998. But everybody looked great.

Since it was a fundraiser let me get this out the way — St. Mary’s can raise some dang funds. First of all, the event is really one giant auction. Even before you get there, you register on an app on your phone, and that’s how you bid and keep up with all the stuff they’re auctioning off. And let me tell you there’s a LOT of it. People donated literally THREE DIFFERENT ROOMS full of items — beautiful clothes, gifts, jewelry, services, art, trips, food ... anything you can think of. You could go see all the items and then place your bid online and the app tracked it for you throughout the night so you could see if you needed to up your bid.

Other than the three rooms there was also another room of ... wait for it ... DESSERTS that you could bid on — cakes and pies and other sweets. Whoever came up with this is a genius. You walk around a giant table of beautiful and delicious desserts and you could bid on them. The winners got their desserts brought to their table during the meal. It’s a fantastic idea. Our table won a heath bar cake that was sent straight from heaven. Whoever donated that needs their own cooking show.

Oh before I forget, there were regular tables and there were special fancy VIP tables. The VIP tables were closer to the front and came with champagne and giveaways and mints and cheeses of the world. I was at a non-VIP table which was still very nice. I just went over and stole from the VIP tables so it all worked out.

Do y’all know Christa Jackson? I don’t know exactly what she does at St. Mary’s but I call her Miss St. Mary’s because I feel like she’s the school’s ambassador. She is all things St. Mary’s and she promotes the heck out of that place. She was at the gala in this amazing multicolored light-up cape. She was greeting everyone and making sure everyone was having a good time. That woman is the face of St. Mary’s and they are lucky to have her.

So when you first came in, they gave every person a packet that included a little bidding card that came into play after dinner. Aside from the three rooms of items to bid on and the magical dessert room you could bid on, there was also a live auction with the really expensive stuff. Auctioneer extraordinaire, Lou Dempsey, was of course asked to do the live auction and he made it so much fun for everyone. When I die, please have Lou Dempsey come to my funeral and do a live auction of all my worldly belongings. He’s a good time.

So here’s where I was most impressed by the St. Mary’s parents and their supporters. Even after everyone had paid for tickets to the event (except me), and even after bidding on items on their phones all night, they still found the generosity to bid on some of these big-ticket items knowing all the money went right back to the school. AND many had bought raffle tickets at $100 a pop.

Like I said before, I have no affiliation with St. Mary’s school but it seems to me that the level of parent involvement there is phenomenal. Not just financially but the the school really seems to encourage parents to be actively and physically involved in activities and in their kids’ education. That’s great to see. These are the families that help make up our community and it’s wonderful to see how these kids benefit from their parents taking an active role in their education.

So y’all look for me at next year’s gala. I’ll be the one hovering over the dessert table.

Severo Avila is Features Editor

for the Rome News-Tribune.