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"The Crease" kicked off All-Star Weekend by raising $600,000 for pediatric cancer research

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets


“Where being bad is good” was the theme for The Crease, a one-of-a-kind underground speakeasy party to raise money for pediatric cancer research. With $600,000 raised by the Blue Jackets Foundation on Thursday night, it’s safe to say there was plenty of good done.

The story behind The Crease is unique; when planning for the 2015 NHL All-Star festivities in Columbus, the Blue Jackets Foundation sought to do something different and something memorable to support its signature cause. Hosted at the legendary Columbus Athenaeum on 4th St. downtown, the 1920s-style prohibition underground party contained few details and many secrets – but that was the plan all along.

All that the party’s attendees needed was the appropriately-themed attire, a ticket and a way to get downtown. The rest was unveiled right before them, as various entertainers took the stage in the main ballroom and kept the vibe going throughout the evening. Magicians, dancers, musical acts…the night had surprises and special guests at every turn and kept attendees guessing as to what was next.

Some of those in attendance: the Blue Jackets’ All-Stars Nick Foligno and Ryan Johansen, Blue Jackets majority owner John P. McConnell, president of hockey operations John Davidson, GM Jarmo Kekalainen, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, and several Columbus dignitaries who joined in the celebration for a good cause.

The entire cost of the event was underwritten by the McConnell Family Foundation, meaning every penny raised went directly to the Blue Jackets Foundation’s fight against pediatric cancer.

“The thought was to do something really special to celebrate Columbus and the weekend. It wasn’t so much about the fundraising part but more so celebrating the city, but you don’t get a gift like this from the McConnell Family Foundation and not leverage that,” said Cathy Lyttle, vice-chairwoman of the Blue Jackets Foundation. “The idea behind the speakeasy theme was fun to think about – we wanted something unique. We didn’t want to do something where everyone sits down and has dinner at a table of 10. We wanted something that was secret, where you needed a password, which was kind of analogous to Columbus.

“The people who came to Columbus for All-Star Weekend discovered our little secret and probably saw our city in a way that they haven’t before. It was a fun to celebrate a night and we tried something that hadn’t been done before, and I think we succeeded.”

The big surprise of the night came after a “police raid,” ushering the crowd from the lower level of the Athenaeum to an upstairs theater, where emcee Johnny DiLoretto introduced Sara Bareilles, known for hit songs like “Love Song” and “Brave.” Bareilles played several of her songs, some on the piano and others on guitar, keeping the audience entertained with her trademark dry sense of humor.

PHOTO GALLERY: "The Crease"

“We really loved Sara Bareilles’ tie to us and our cause through the song ‘Brave,’” Lyttle said. “It has a lot of meaning. We liked the song and its attachment to the fight against pediatric cancer. When she sang that song at the end, we showed images from our Flashes of Hope calendar and our team’s connection to these kids. Plus she’s just a great entertainer, and her style seemed to fit the speakeasy theme – she was casual, funny, and absolutely a fantastic fit for this event.”

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