Attorney Christopher Mark Neilson



Second Annual B.C.B.A. Bench and Bar Holloween Costume Party

Last year, we began implementing a plan to invite underprivileged children to this years event, but first wanted to have a “dry run” to make sure it would work. Since the event went flawlessly last year, we decided to make this a signature event, and to invite underprivileged children this year. This dove-tailed perfectly with The Florida Bar President Miles McGrane’s initiative to help children. State Representative Jack Seiler and Chris Cloney volunteered to seek out children for the event. Jack contacted Kids in Distress, The Boys and Girls Club, and Big Mama’s House, while Chris contacted the Homeless Shelters. Florida Bar President Miles McGrane was invited, and agreed to attend.

We envisioned the basement could be made even better! Aaron Sound and Light, from Hollywood, generously provided special effects and installed a great sound system and black lights throughout the basement. Hollywood Artist Mark Vose painted special scenes in the basement in flourescent paints, which glow in the dark under the black lights! WOW! What a difference! We truly went “Hollywood”! Donations of costumes were solicited to give to the underprivileged children.

Two months in advance, colorful – orange stock – Halloween theme invitations were specially designed, and mailed to our 2500 members! Similar numbered-perforated tickets with door prize stubs were also custom designed, and distributed to Board and Committee members for sale. A beautiful event sign (you guessed it orange and Halloween theme!) was designed for display, to provide notice at other events and to recognize our sponsors. A tent was ordered for the outside patio. A valet service; a DJ with special music, lighting and fog; and, a Sheriff’s Deputy were hired.

A HUGE thanks to our sponsors!: Bank of America; Neurology Associates; Publix; Krupnick & Campbell, et. all; Seiler and Scott Mager; Brandt, Bustamante: Victor and Geraldine DiBianchi; Law Office of David Ventura; and the Law Office of Christopher Mark Neilson, P.A.

KUDOS to all members for supporting and promoting the event, and for selling and purchasing tickets; to Stephens Distributing for donating and delivering the beer for the event!; to Southern Spirit Distributors for supplying, and to John Stevens for delivering, the wine; to Park Avenue Office Services for supplying, delivering and setting up the wonderful coffees, hot chocolate, and other hot beverages for the event; to “In Good Taste Catering” of Boca Raton, who gave us a special price and provided costumed servers, delightfully decorated serving stations, and, more importantly great service and delicious food!; to Mimi Sall for her kind assistance; to Nola Richardson for supplying the dry ice, cauldron, and smoking punch!; to Mike Winer and his daughter Nicki for supplying the Black and Orange Balloons and Helium and inflating LOTS of Balloons!; to Steve Moody for supplying the Tombstones for the graveyard scene, and the great spider web backdrops for the basement. A BIG thanks to Nancy and Mark Gregoire, for bringing the Gargoyles, Skeletons, Giant Glowing Pumpkin & TV/VCR for the basement, all the “Feeling Station” supplies, and for their fantastic acting skills in the haunted house. A very special thanks to David Ventura for his commitment and hard work. David not only co-sponsored the event, but also supplied all the soda, water, ice, and coolers; took and provided photographs; set up the giant 8′ Pumpkin; arranged the coffee vendor; coordinated the caterer, and helped out every step of the way. And, finally, to our outstanding Executive Director, Art Goldberg, without whose tireless efforts, every step of the way, the event would not have been possible. We are extremely fortunate to have someone of his work ethic and caliber as our Director.

Numerous raffle and door prizes were obtained, including: A blazer from Hart, Schaffner, Marx!; Two baskets containing men’s colognes and women’s perfumes!; Dinner at Tropical Acres ($50); Dinner at Sushi Blues (up to $30); Lunch at Bravo! (Up to $25); Two lunches for two at Little Red’s! ($15 each); Two meals from Piccadilly Cafeteria (up to $16); Free haircut and manicure from Men’s World in Hollywood!; One pound of coffee at Espresso the Gourmet; Several gifts, including some from China! (Nancy Gregoire); A bottle of red and a bottle of white (wine)! (Southern spirit distributors); Two B.C.B.A. coffee mugs!; Two free movie tickets (from AMC)!; Two B.C.B.A. coffee mugs and two free movie tickets! Several cd’s from Holly Krulick; A round of golf for four at Fort Lauderdale Country Club from Robin Moselle.

The Night Before
Everyone pitched in at a “Decorate the Bar” Pizza Party on Friday night, Oct. 24, and returned hours before the party on Saturday, to “transmute” the basement into a “Haunted House”, complete with “scary” sound effects, an “electrified” Frankenstein, a Bar, fog, “crime scene’s”, and numerous professional quality “special effects”.

The Event
The crew arrived early, around 1 pm, and began to make final preparations. By 3:30 the Deputy & Valet were set up. By 4 pm the kids began to arrive. President McGrane and his wife arrived to greet the kids, and everyone went through the haunted basement.

Scary sound effects and fog filled the basement, which had a haunted doorbell and was lighted with very low red, green and black lighting. T.V.’s played original 1930’s “Frankenstein” and “Dracula” videos, inside and outside. Flourescent faces, crime scenes and graveyards glowed in the dark. Of course, the adults had a scarier experience than the kids. For adults, Nancy greeted the guests, and they entered the dark with the door slamming behind them. As “Egor” and a skull on a pulley system advanced from the dark, Nancy told stories, and advanced guests through the tunnel. Art, armed with a meat cleaver and “Jason” mask, jumped out at unsuspecting visitors, scarring them into the inner chambers, where Mark appeared to morph from the crypt! A Cemetery was created inside the basement, where “Freddy” lay in repose, reminding all of those who died in experiments performed on the “Criminally Insane”! On the way out, a “tactile experience station”, manned by Nancy Gregoire, contained simulated brains, eyes, worms, etc.! For the kids, it was toned down. And, they loved it! They wanted to go back through. Beverages were served in the makeshift basement garage “Lounge”, where “Goody Bags” were given out to all who attended. President McGrane’s wife drew the ticket for the flying helicopter (donated by Jerry Williams), which President McGrane presented to the lucky winner. The kids had treats and beverages, and goody bags filled with candy which Jack Seiler and his family filled.

Outside, a skeleton hung over a second tombstone cemetery, under the huge ancient oak tree! A “giant 8′ inflatable lighted pumpkin” adorned the property! The Norma Howard Center was transformed into a Halloween Party house, with spider webs, a fireplace and mantle with “Blue Boy” hung above it; music, lights, fog, food and beverage tables, a full assortment of coffee thanks to Park Avenue Office Services, orange and black helium balloons, decorations, even lighted “gargoyles!”. Everyone ate, drank, and danced to the great party theme music in the fog covered, specially lit “Great Hall”.

Many deserve credit, including Nancy Gregoire (“The Princess of Darkness”) and her husband Mark (“Egor”) Art Goldberg (“Mad Meat Cleaver Art”), Christopher M. “Chris” Neilson (“The Pirate/Captain Chris “), and his wife Connie Neilson (“The Pirate/Connie the Cutter”), Mike Winer (“Mikey The Musketeer”), Mike’s lovely daughter “Nicky”, David Ventura (“Sinbad The Photographer”), Bar Staff, Todd Stephens (“The Bud-Man”), friends, family, etc., just to mention a few! If anyone was overlooked, please excuse the transgression, but, in fact, they may still be in the basement! Several members stayed until almost midnight, breaking down the Haunted House, and cleaning up and around the property! For those who helped out, thanks so very, very much!

It was a pleasure to help create and design this event, and share Halloween decorations and ideas. I hope this signature event becomes tradition with helping underprivileged children, and that it gives them some joy, fun memories, welcome distraction from their unfortunate situations, and will hopefully make a difference in the way Attorneys, Judges, as well as the legal profession, interact and are perceived.

If you weren’t one of the approx. 150 underprivileged children, costumed judges and lawyers who were there, you missed one heck of a good party! We hope to see you next year!

(Chris Neilson can be reached at (954) 920-4529).

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