Auto show gala kicks it up a gear for kids charities

Michael H. Hodges
The Detroit News

It's going to be a good year for kids' charities.

With ticket proceeds for the North American International Auto Show Charity Preview topping $5 million, their highest in seven years, the nine benefiting nonprofits can look forward to a happy bump to their bottom lines.

Cengiz and Jennifer Shevket take photos from overhead the GM exhibit at last year’s NAIAS Charity Preview.

"We are highly dependent on Charity Preview," said Suneil Singh, executive director at Boys Hope Girls Hope Detroit, which runs a range of holistic programs to prepare adolescents for college. The organization has been involved with the Charity Preview for more than 20 years.

"This year Charity Preview will bring us over $200,000," he said. "That's about a quarter of our revenue."

At the Children's Center in Detroit, which provides mental and behavioral health services to kids and families, corporate philanthropy director Marletta Boyd II said their relationship with the Charity Preview is key.

"We've been involved for 23 years and this year expect to get over $500,000 in proceeds," she said.

By mid-afternoon Thursday, the Charity Preview had sold 13,121 tickets, which at $400 a pop — $50 more than last year — translates into $5.2 million, the highest take since 2008. That puts the preview's total since 1976 at just over $100 million for local organizations doing great work with kids.

In 2014, Detroit's biggest black-tie event — which this year will feature the Steve Miller Band and more than 5,000 bottles of champagne — generated $4.8 million for nine charities on total ticket sales of 13,826.

Rod Alberts, auto show executive director, said he was always sure they'd pass $100 million in 2015. "We've got a great thing going here," he said.

Like last year, high-heeled women who've suffered on Cobo's notoriously unyielding floors will find welcome relief thanks to, which will be giving out free slippers.

"Last year," said Auto Show spokesman Joe Rohatynski, "they were huge."

Capping the glittering evening at 9 p.m. will be "An Evening with the Steve Miller Band" in the Atrium.

Hope Prep Academy students Nehe Scarboraugh, left, and Gabriela Gonzales work with Scholar Support Coordinator James Bates on a project in a class that benefits from the Auto Show Charity Preview.

Another innovation from 2014 being carried into the new year is Studio 25 — a private party that can accommodate up to about 2,700 guests — starting at 8:30 p.m. in Cobo's Grand Riverview Ballroom. In addition to plenty to eat and drink, entertainment will be provided by rocking local cover band 50 Amp Fuse. Tickets to the party are an extra $150 per person on top of Charity Preview admission.

Part of the logic behind creating Studio 25, Alberts said, was the realization that while many go out to private parties after 9 p.m., a growing contingent wants to be able to keep the party going right there at Cobo.

"Studio 25 extends the night," he said, "and takes the party celebrating Detroit till 1 in the morning."


NAIAS Charity Preview

Cobo Center

Where and when: 6-9 tonight, 1 Washington Blvd., Detroit

Tickets: $400 per person ($390 tax deductible); call (888) 838-7500

Studio 25 party

Where and when: 8:30 p.m.

to 1 a.m., Cobo Center's Grand Riverview Ballroom

Tickets: $150 per person (on top of Charity Preview admission); call (248) 643-0250