By Vicki de Vries
This lazy summer evening, a dozen small tables covered with white tablecloths grace a lovely garden filled with flowers, bushes and small trees. At one table, a waiter readies for the order.
“I’ll have the mini lobster rolls,” Desmond says in his gentle Irish brogue. His lovely wife, Nora, adds, “And I’ll have the grilled scallops enrobed in bacon,” pointing to the tapas menu.
A skilled guitarist eases into a coffeehouse rift. People holding glasses filled with wine seem to appear from nowhere and start talking to each other. Complete strangers talking to each other.
Suddenly, the atmosphere has become distinctly festive. For the uninitiated, the conviviality could be mistaken for a casual garden party, and the food and wine orders could have been made at any fine outdoor restaurant in almost any town.
What sets this particular scene apart is nothing short of amazing–or, rather, sparkling as in Sparkle for a Cause, the charity fundraiser that Crabtree’s Kittle House Restaurant and Inn in Chappaqua has been sponsoring every Tuesday evening for the past two summers.
Since its auspicious beginning in June of 2011, Sparkle for a Cause has raised well over $12,000 for local charities. The fundraising angle is uncomplicated. Every Tuesday evening, diners order from a special tapas or full dinner menu and have the pleasure of knowing that 30% of their paid bill, minus tax and gratuity, will go to the charity featured for the evening.
Among the charities that have participated in Sparkle for A Cause include Boys & Girls Club of Northern Westchester, The Child Abuse Prevention Center, Girl Scouts Heart of the Hudson, Hope’s Door, Make A Wish of the Hudson Valley, Mount Kisco Child Care Center and the SPCA of Westchester, among others.
As with many great achievements, Sparkle for a Cause began small. In fact, according to John Crabtree, the owner of Crabtree’s Kittle House, it began “on a whim.” It seems that John’s sister Amie Crabtree and Grace Bennett, Inside Chappaqua magazine’s very own enterprising publisher, were discussing various ways to help local charities.
Even though the name Sparkle for a Cause is not necessarily original–there is even an online book company by the same name that publishes personalized children’s books which support “educating our youth through literacy” and in some places in the country, there have been charity events by the same name–the Crabtree’s Kittle House garden variety of Sparkle for a Cause clearly grew out of that inspired discussion between Amy Crabtree and Grace Bennett.
As soon as John Crabtree heard about the idea, he immediately offered to sponsor it, insisting it be held in Amy’s Garden, the outdoor area named in honor of his beloved wife, Amy, who had died from cancer a couple of years before. Located near the restaurant’s Tap Room, the garden is the fulfillment of a dream Amy had, but never lived to enjoy.
Many of Amy’s friends, who have planted flowers and flowering bushes in the garden, also participate in Team Amy, short for the Amy Marie Crabtree Foundation [a 501c (3) charity that the Crabtree family operates] in remembrance of their dear friend. During her life, Amy had helped several charities, including those associated with children, battered women, the homeless, and animals.
Little wonder that many of the Sparkle for a Cause charities reflect the same categories that used to move Amy Crabtree’s generous heart. In celebration of Amy’s birthday on August 2, 2011, Team Amy held a special fundraiser that raised more than $24,000 for four charities: Hope’s Door, Make A Wish, Have a Chance against Brain Tumors, and the SPCA. This past Aug- ust 2, four charities were also featured.
While the formula behind Sparkle for a Cause seems fairly simple, the weekly events have not grown out of spontaneous generation. “Each event is carefully planned,” said Amie Crabtree, who, along with her sister, Rita, contacts the charities and reminds them to promote their special evening through emails and social media. The sisters create the special tapas menu and are on hand to keep each Tuesday event running smoothly.
“Another important last step is reminding the charities to set up a display table with literature, posters and so forth,” said Amie, who also schedules the live musicians that add an extra touch to the party atmosphere.
During the recent Sparkle for a Cause event on August 28, the Child Abuse Center of Westchester set up a literature table and conducted a raffle with an array of prizes. Attendees included committed charity supporters, the CEO and the Treasurer of the charity, and casual diners who “just happened” to learn about the Sparkle event. Either way, “a happy time” was had by all.
So, is Sparkle for a Cause worth the effort? “Absolutely!” said Amie, who can’t wait until next summer to see how much the restaurant can help local charities. And big brother, John, concurs.
Vicki de Vries is a freelance writer/editor and educator who loves the definition of sparkle–“giving off or reflecting flashes of light” and “to be brilliant in performance,” qualities that aptly describe Westchester’s own Sparkle for a Cause at Crabtree’s Kittle House Restaurant and Inn.