The celebrity waiters stationed at various restaurants around Aiken Monday had one overarching strategy: raise as much money as possible.They employed jokes, warm smiles, songs and, at The Willcox, a variety of activities from a silent auction to casino games, all in an effort to raise money for Children's Place during the agency's biggest and certainly most well-known fundraiser.Guests were welcomed aboard the SS Willcox at the historic downtown hotel, which went beyond simply lending its restaurant to the fundraiser.A $35 ticket gave attendees passage to visit five "ports" - the Caribbean, New Zealand, Mexico, Germany and China - with food and decorations to match. Gaming tables were open to anyone for a $10 donation worth 10,000 casino bucks. A Willcox package, an electric guitar, a hat and scarf and many other items were available during the silent auction, as well.Children's Place board member Barbara Morgan said it wasn't just a dinner at The Willcox; it was an "event with incredible, creative energy.""And, it makes all the difference in the world to the children," she said.At Davor's, the owners and employees of Smith Financial and Tax Advisory Group greeted customers at the door and saw to their every dining need. It was the first time the firm participated in Celebrity Waiter Night.Davor's diner Sharon Rodgers, who also works with United Way of Aiken County, eats at a different restaurant every year for Celebrity Waiter Night. Last year, she ate at Casa Bella."The Children's Place is a special place. They help children that would otherwise be left in trying situations," she said.Across The Alley at Takosushi, Casey and Bryan Young representing Allstate Insurance helped hold down the fort."The strategy is get as many tips as you can," Casey said."Whatever it takes for the kids," Bryan added.At Linda's Bistro, guitarist Bill Ulbricht received $20 for every song he played.At Casa Bella, Shaw AREVA MOX was looking for the distinction of raising the most money. Last year, the team was able to raise more than $33,000. The total beat their previous year's take of more than $26,000, which beat their record-setting total from the year before.Tom St. Louis, who works with AREVA MOX, said he learned about the fundraiser through work. He and his wife, Genevieve, moved to Aiken in February, so this was the first time they dined out for Celebrity Waiter Night."Anything to support children is a good thing," he said.The other restaurants that participated were Soiree, Maxine's, Up Your Alley, The Reserve Club at Woodside Plantation, Houndslake Country Club and WingPlace.In addition to meals and a caring environment, Children's Place also provides speech, occupational, behavioral and play therapy tailored to each child's needs, and parental and caregiver training and advice.Celebrity Waiter Night donations are used to support those therapeutic activities.The Children's Place staff cares for about 105 children each day and each year serves about 35,000 meals, makes about 1,500 home visits and provides more than 1,200 hours of therapy.
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