A catwalk's worth of government and media big shots let their hair down at a Wednesday night fundraiser where special needs met special interests.
"I don't think many people are aware how little Down Syndrome receives [in] research dollars, for being the most common of chromosome abnormalities," Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., said in an interview at the start of the Global Down Syndrome Foundation's 2013 gala dinner, hosted at the Ritz-Carlton in Foggy Bottom this year.
Twenty-five models with Down Syndrome walked in a fashion show for the event's 350 attendees, in some cases escorted by a member of Congress. McMorris Rodgers walked with her son, Cole, who has Down Syndrome. Cole was named the 2013 Ambassador to the Global Down Syndrome Foundation at the event. McMorris Rodgers and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., were each presented with the Quincy Jones Exceptional Advocacy Award. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, gave opening remarks onstage with his son, Alex, who also has Down Syndrome.
Other lawmakers in attendance were just as excited to get money flowing to Down Syndrome research. "It's not a hard sell for me," Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., told HOH.
"It's always inspiring to see these young adults and the enthusiasm they bring," Walden gushed. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., drew a connection between across-the-board budget cuts and the event, calling the sequester "thoughtless." "I am totally just not satisfied with sequestration," he told HOH. "Groups like this could be impacted by that thoughtlessness. I think being here is a call to order — a call to action." Media honchos also advocated for the cause of Down Syndrome research funding: CNN correspondent Kyra Phillips acted as the master of ceremonies and supermodel Beverly Johnson served as a celebrity escort to the models, alongside Fox News Channel's John Roberts and WUSA 9's Lesli Foster. Though Madeleine Albright also attended the dinner, HOH confesses we did not get near the former secretary of State.
A pamphlet among the materials handed out on Wednesday night said Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin would be the musical act. Awkwardly enough, HOH is here to tell you that that's not what happened. Instead, when singer and guitarist Sheryl Crow performed a post-dinner set including hits "Soak Up the Sun" and "All I Wanna Do," gala attendees partied like it was 1995. At Crow's behest, the models returned to the catwalk to boogie down.
Franklin, HOH muses, surely missed out. When all was said and done, the foundation raked in $400,000, according to media contact Shawn Flaherty.