In one word, executive director Krissy Crites summed up this year’s Diamonds and Snowflakes gala: phenomenal. 

“It’s going better than I ever could have expected,” Crites said. “The turnout with the snow that we had this morning, the weather — I got quite a few texts from people whose kids had come down with the flu — the turnout was still phenomenal. It’s amazing living in a community that gives so much.”

The gala, held to raise funds for the Red River Valley Down Syndrome Society, welcomed 520 attendees to Love Civic Center Saturday evening for a chance to win a fish fry for 20 people, a night at Drake’s Party Barn and $1,000 gift certificate from David’s Jewelry on the auction block. Band Twisted Whiskey played the show, and Hole in the Wall provided catering. Wyatt Bowden emceed the event and auction. 

While the final amount raised is yet to be announced, last year’s event raised more than the goal of $45,000. Organizers hoped to repeat that this year, staff said — and by the looks of the bids Saturday, they would meet that goal. A photo of Gene Stallings with his son and several members of the Alabama football team sold for a cool $8,000, a highlight of the night. 

“Coach Gene Stallings is a huge supporter of our community, our after-school and summer programs are named after his son, so it’s just been a phenomenal night. It means so much,” Crites said. 

Other items went back to the auction block for another round. A bicycle, the last of the live auction, was bought for $6,100 before being sold again for $4,000. The buyer donated the bicycle back to the iCan Bike camp program. Another man purchased a rifle for $5,000 before donating it back and selling it yet again, raising an additional $5,000. Crites was floored. 

The Red River Valley Down Syndrome Society also funds the REACH Center, which works to make a difference in the lives of individuals with Down syndrome, or other disabilities, by increasing their opportunities in life. The REACH Center runs different educational activities for those with disabilities and their parents or relatives as well as educational professionals.

Crites said the organization is looking toward the future. 

“Reaching out to our community, our outer community. We’ve got families here from Sulphur Springs, Blossom. We’ve got a family in Clarksville,” she said. “Reaching out to those areas and at least getting a monthly support group meeting up and going, and increasing our programing, especially our adult programing.” 

Macon Atkinson is a staff writer for The Paris News. She can be reached at 903-785-6963 or macon.atkinson@theparisnews.com.

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