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The Oxygen Ball, Friday, May 8, Francis Marion Hotel

Well, the night began inauspiciously with me dressed in my tux and my wife dropping me off at Moe’s to pick her up a burrito for supper since she was providing limo service (and it was Mother’s Day weekend after all) and we couldn’t find a sitter. After circling the block a few times while I stood in line, she pulled up to the curb, and I traded her order for my camera and kissed her and baby Henry goodnight before heading across the street to the Francis Marion to join the party.

The front desk directed me to the mezzanine level, where I picked up my bidding number before scoping out the silent auction items. On my way back to the end of the tables, I met Cheryl Pearson with her husband, Jim, who had driven the four and a half hours from Jacksonville, Florida, to attend the event. Cheryl is the Southeast vice president of development for the American Lung Association, which the evening’s festivities were benefiting. The Pearsons were looking forward to taking in the charms of our city before heading to Georgia for a fundraiser golf tournament Jim was to play in (“It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it,” he said).

When I first reached the mezzanine level, I’d noticed a bar tucked away in a corner. Its surface was filled with multicolored bottles, but instead of being topped with the usual pouring spouts, there emerged clear plastic tubes. This was the famous oxygen bar I’d heard so much about. Later, nasal cannula in place, I’d experience lavender oxygen for serenity, mint for invigoration, and eucalyptus for some benefit that escapes me—even one for memory recall (obviously I skipped that one). There was even an oxygen for suppressing the appetite, but I didn’t notice many takers for that before the buffet dinner was served, proceeded by wonderful passed hors d’oeuvres.

Back at the Oxygen Bar, I ran into chef Barry Waldrop, who was huffing away with Mary Porter and Kathleen Peacock, the later of whom would deign to dance with me and my two left feet after Mitchell Crosby so gracefully declined her invitation by telling her, “We’re politicking.” “We’re not politicking, we’re dancing,” Kathleen informed him. So dance we did.

I don’t know what effects the scented oxygen is supposed to give, but a short while later I found Barry again looking a bit light-headed from the hits he’d taken at the oxygen bar. However, it didn’t seem to affect his rhythm much since he was later the hands-down winner of the Dancing with the Stars competition that began once the plates were well cleared in the banquet hall. Barry pitted his skills against Patrice Smith, Sam Mustafa, Julie Sinacore-Jaberg, and Steven Jordan, who were all partnered with true professionals from Fred Astaire Dance Studios. (The dancing really was quite good.)

Following an inspiring talk by Lorcan Lucey, a local mortgage broker who until last year competed in marathons and triathlons until he was diagnosed in 2007 with Interstitial Lung Disease. His courage, positive attitude, and passion in combating his own disease and drawing attention to the need for increased research to discover cures for all lung diseases reminded us, above and beyond the good time we were having, why we had gathered. A live auction saw some outstanding items go on the block, and the bidding was competitive, which was encouraging to see since all the funds raised to the American Lung Association go towards the nonprofit organization’s ultimate goal of ridding the world of lung disease.

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