The theme of the high-octane 2017 Fight for Children’s Fight Night was “The Power Within” and the 2,000 guests had no difficulties getting behind the idea. The welcome reception was a grab bag of activities that ignited the senses. After you obtained a beverage from one of the numerous open bars and nibbled on some food you could wander over to the virtual reality experience station where, with the addition of 3-D glasses, you became a hockey goalie defending against four other players. Passing on either side of you would likely be a member of the cheerleading squad from the Mystics, Nationals, or Wizards. In fact, even President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, one of the National’s contestants in their President’s races, hung out with the crowd, at one point dancing in front of the disc jockey on the dance floor with the Slapshot, the official mascot of the Washington Capitals.
This was the same room in which attendees bid on tables of silent auction items, which ranged from restaurant meals to sports memorabilia. I gravitated admittingly on more than one occasion over to the Fogo de Chao Brazilian Steakhouse restaurant booth that provided all you could drink glasses of Caipirinha, the country’s national cocktail made fresh on the premises.
It was shortly thereafter that I ran into D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. I wanted to know what she thought of the job Antwan Wilson was doing as DCPS Chancellor. “Fantastic,” she exclaimed.
The number of people inside the hall was now really beginning to build. Attendees could shoot baskets, hit golf balls onto a fairway, or ring a bell hitting a pivot with a large mallet.
I then had the chance to speak with Fight for Children president and chief executive officer Keith Gordon. I asked him what excited him about tonight. “Everything,” he responded without hesitation. “We have rock music, mixed martial arts, and are even auctioning off a Washington National’s Chopper. There is a special spirit to Fight Night.”
That spirit appeared to levitate the men in black tie into the main ballroom. There in the center was the first change from last year. The customary four-cornered ring had been replaced by one with 10 sides surrounded by fencing, a decagon I would later learn it is called, to hold one of the four MMA bouts sponsored by the Professional Fighters League. If you have never seen MMA matches, I think a fair way to describe them as boxing on steroids in which participants use their feet as well as their gloved hands to battle.
The entertainment included Laith Al-Saadi, from NBC’s “The Voice,” singing great American songbook pieces from a stage at the back of the room. I paid my respects to Bret Baier, the Fox News political director and anchor of “Special Report.” Sitting not far from him was Kaya Henderson, the former DCPS Chancellor who seconded Mayor Bowser’s positive opinion of the work of the man who replaced her. It was also great to see Michela English, the former president and CEO of Fight for Children. She had kind words for me as she always did during the decade that she was in her position. I was especially grateful to speak to Father John, the CEO of the Archdiocese of Washington, who I met when I participated this year with Catholic Charities’ “Cup of Joe” event that assembles breakfasts for temporarily homeless individuals staying in one of the organization’s Washington, D.C. shelters. The activity is named after Fight for Children founder Joseph E. Robert, Jr.
Smiling throughout the festivities, and seated ringside, was the vice chairman of Monumental Sports & Entertainment and Fight for Children chairman Raul Fernandez. As multitudes of friends and associates came to greet him he certainly appeared to be ecstatic about the overwhelming strong support around this annual gala.
The program included, as is customary, an introduction of the legends of boxing, a live auction, and an acrobatic dance routine by the Washington Redskin’s cheerleaders. The headlining entertainment was provided by the hard-driving Royal Machines, performing from the same space that had only recently hosted the fighters. Individuals meandered around the space in lively conversation, cigar smoke billowed in the room, hostesses in red gowns brought refreshments to the tables, and foot-long steaks filled the dinner plates. All was apparently perfectly well with Fight Night, after 28 years of proudly raising money to support low-income children’s health and education.
After midnight, it was time to move over to the after party.