Column: 2010 Big Splash at the aquarium to be ‘the party of the year’

By Maria Saporta
Friday, June 18, 2010

Two of Bernie Marcus’ great passions will join forces on the night of Nov. 13 for Big Splash 2010.

On that evening, 1,800 Atlantans will be the first to see the Georgia Aquarium’s new Dolphin Exhibit at a black-tie event benefiting the Marcus Autism Center.

It will be a night reminiscent of the first Big Splash in 2005 when 2,200 attendees came to a special pre-opening of the Georgia Aquarium, an event that raised more than $4 million for the Marcus Autism Center, nationally known for its treatment of children with autism.

“These two things are very close to me,” Marcus said in an interview. “The key is to raise the funding for the center so we will be able to take care of more kids and expand our services.”

Marcus and his wife, Billi, will be honored guests for their role in founding both the Marcus Autism Center (now part of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta) and the Georgia Aquarium. “We think this is going to be the party of the year,” said London Andes, who is co-chairing the event with Caryl Paller, a repeat of their roles in 2005. “Bernie and Billi have meant so much to Atlanta.”

For Marcus, the opening of the dolphin exhibit will fulfill his original vision for the aquarium. “Honestly, when we designed the aquarium eight years ago, we designed the building with the thought of having a dolphin exhibit,” Marcus said. “This will be the first opportunity for people to see it.”

Already, the Waffle House, Coca-Cola, UPS, and Arthur and Stephanie Blank have signed up as sponsors. Also, the Blanks are hosting a patron party at their home on Oct. 8, which is being sponsored by Wilmington Trust and Coopers-Atlanta Transportation Services.

But the Big Splash is not just another party. Money raised will go to the Marcus Autism Center to help treat the “fastest-growing developmental disability in the world,” said Don Mueller, executive director of the center.

“Nobody knows the cause.” Nationally, about one out of every 110 children has autism. But in Georgia, that number is one out of 98. A decade ago, one of every 166 children had autism, and in the early 1980s, it was one of every 2,500 children.

Currently, the Marcus Autism Center serves nearly 4,000 children a year, and there’s a six-month wait. Mueller said he would love to be able to serve twice that many children.

The center has partnered with Emory University, The University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia State University, Children’s Healthcare, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It’s a consortium where everybody wants to be in the room,” Marcus said. “Everybody wants to solve this problem. I think in years to come, this will be the model for treating autism and doing research.”

CAP’s Kelman retiring

One of downtown Atlanta’s biggest boosters — Paul Kelman — is retiring as executive vice president of Central Atlanta Progress on July 16 after 22 years with the business and community development organization.

Kelman is the longest-serving employee in CAP’s 70-year history — having served once as its interim president and having been instrumental in CAP’s initiatives in urban design and community development. It was Kelman who first proposed the creation of the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District and its Ambassador Force.

“He leaves behind a lasting legacy in city planning, transportation and downtown development,” CAP President A.J. Robinson said. “But, most importantly, he leaves behind a legacy of integrity and credibility that is second to none. His contributions to CAP, ADID and the entire community are numerous, and our city is a much better place because of Paul.”

Tocqueville celebration

The man who helped make metro Atlanta No. 1 in United Way Alexis de Tocqueville members beginning in the mid-1990s is returning for an encore.

Guy Millner, chairman and CEO of Assurance America, has agreed to serve as the 2010 chair of Metro Atlanta’s United Way Tocqueville Society, whose members contribute at least $10,000. Millner’s repeat role was announced June 15 at the 25th annual celebration of the society at the Loews Atlanta Hotel hosted by Deloitte.

The honorees included philanthropists Madeline and Howell Adams; and Mark Ketchum, president and CEO of Newell Rubbermaid. Also, the Wilbur and Hilda Glenn Family Foundation was inducted in United Way’s Million Dollar Roundtable.

According to United Way’s most recent statistics, Atlanta has 796 Tocqueville members compared with 750 in Cincinnati, 733 in Houston and 700 in Birmingham.

Hands on Atlanta turns 20

Hands On Atlanta will be blowing out 20 candles on Saturday, June 19, at its 20th Birthday Bash at the Defoor Centre.

Atlanta’s top pastry chefs will be part of a live competition to create the most original, multi-layered cake for judges and the crowd in what is being called the Great Atlanta CakeOff, a fundraiser aimed at benefiting Hands On Atlanta.

The competition will take place from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., and the public is invited for $10 a ticket. The evening event will include a wine tasting, gourmet food, a silent auction, live music and art performances, with tickets ranging from $50 to $125.

Impact Day at Deloitte

Deloitte basically closed down June 11 for its 11th annual Impact Day, when 30,000 of its 45,000 employees volunteered for projects all over the country. About 1,000 of those worked on about a dozen projects in metro Atlanta.

Atlanta’s Deloitte also held its third annual Impact Summit, where associates provided consulting services for about 50 nonprofit organizations. About 120 executives with those agencies received management consulting services from about 100 Deloitte professionals in Atlanta.

“It’s been a great opportunity for us to take a role in the community and to offer nonprofits the services that we offer our clients every day,” said Brad Branch, Deloitte’s managing partner in Atlanta. “It’s a day for nonprofit executive to develop better skills in running their organizations.”

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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