Sunday, May 08, 2011

Camping on the National Mall? Black Tie required.

Rep. Aaron Schock and friends
by contributor Brendan Kownacki

Crowds from across Washington flocked to a giant tent on the National Mall on Saturday evening, dressed to the nines, to support and celebrate the L’Enfant Society and their fund-raising efforts for the Trust for the National Mall.

One aloof taxi driver asked what all the commotion was about, to which one quirky guest replied, “We’re all going camping”—and what a camping trip that would have been. With the moon high in the sky and the illuminated Capitol building just off in the distance, more than 1000 attendees gathered to support the group whose core mission is to restore and improve the National Mall. The organization has raised more than $700,000 to date in support of the Trust for the National Mall, which builds awareness for the current state of the country’s most visited national park and raises funds to respectfully refurbish its grounds and facilities.

L'Enfant Society 2011 chairman David Vennett with The Washington Times' Emily Miller
Microsoft's Mark Drapeau and Katherine Kennedy
“We’re getting the recognition we’ve been building towards,” said David Vennett, 2011 chairman of the L’Enfant Society. “We want to educate people on the need for what has to be done. You cannot come onto this space and not be affected by it.”

Thanks in part to Vennett and his fellow board members, the society has already blown past last year’s fund-raising level and continues to receive generous support for their efforts. “We have a wide and diverse group supporting us,” added Vennett, “members of congress, civic leaders, celebrities…and it’s only expanding.”

Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL) who serves as the Honorary Congressional Chairman for the effort,  was on hand for the event. “It's not just for those who use it,” noted Schock, who sees the National Mall every day as he goes to and from Capitol Hill. “It’s a Statement for how we value America's pride.” He added, explaining that restoring this landmark was an important project for the country. 

Amanda and Curtis Polk
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced this week that former First Lady Laura Bush would serve as the honorary chair for fund-raising efforts to restore the National Mall, hoping to bring new momentum to the already flourishing fund-raising drive. The cause has already caught the attention of high profile media such as Jon Stewart who hosted a rally on the mall with fellow comedian Stephen Colbert in late 2010. Stewart solicited donations for the Trust for the National Mall to make sure that there were funds to clean up any lasting effect of the crowds that he drew. 
Pamela Sorensen and friends

Matt Kownacki and Kate Michael

“The President has pledged his support to the cause and now with Mrs. Bush joining the cause, we feel we’re armed with great power and interest from the right people.” Said L’Enfant board member Pamela Sorensen.

Venga's Winston Lord and the Washington Kastle's Mark Ein flank friends

Supporters mingled and danced on the warm spring night, basking in the unmistakable Washington atmosphere with monuments in view on all sides. As Sorensen reminded us “this is America’s front yard.”