Garner, Affleck attend fundraiser for new gymnasium

As politicians, fundraisers and Charleston’s favorite movie star gathered on the campus of the University of Charleston Friday evening, UC students peered out of windows to get a glimpse of Jennifer Garner and her husband, Ben Affleck, walking down the red carpet.

Money raised from the Starry Starry Night fundraiser is primarily going to pay for a replacement to the 47-year-old Eddie King Gym on UC’s campus. Per-plate tickets to the event started at $250.

Garner walked the red carpet with friends at about 8 p.m. and shared memories that ranged from swimming at the University of Charleston pool to her delight at coming home to the green hills of West Virginia.

Garner, a supporter of Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., also talked briefly about the November presidential election and Obama’s chances in her home state.

“West Virginia’s a little dicey, but overall I feel confident, optimistic,” Garner said. “Sarah Palin made such a splash with the Republican Party, but it seems like that is going to kind of even out. The message that he’s had from the beginning is one people have wanted to hear, so I feel really good about it.”

Affleck skipped the red carpet. Garner met up with her husband, who sported a beard, underneath the gala’s main tent.

At about 7 p.m., guests began to walk down the red carpet set up between Geary Student Union and Riggleman Hall. Attendees included 2006 World’s Strongest Man Phil Pfister, Sen. Jay Rockefeller and Charleston Mayor Danny Jones.

Security was tight as members of the Kanawha County sheriff’s bomb squad checked some bags and media equipment. University of Charleston security and Charleston police also were on hand. Two or three boats from the sheriff’s department monitored the Kanawha River.

According to UC spokesman Andy Spradling, some FBI agents were on hand for security.

“That’s as much for Sen. Rockefeller and the governor as [for Garner],” Spradling said.

Prior to 7 p.m., UC executive chef Tim Brennan prepped tomato and thyme, sweet corn and basil, and sweet potato soup. The sweet corn was garnished with red pepper crisps and the sweet potato soup was topped off with toasted marshmallows. On a nearby table, workers were prepping salad rollups with blue cheese and walnuts.

“We hope we can build a new building,” Spradling said of the reason behind the event. “It doesn’t rely totally on this [fundraiser].”

University of Charleston officials had originally planned to build a replacement gym at the site of the old Watt Powell ballpark, but scrapped those plans and now hope to build on campus, according to Spradling.

The evening also was meant to honor the late Mario and Louise Palumbo, alumni of Morris Harvey College, the precursor to UC. Garner grew up with and went to George Washington High School with current House of Delegates member Corey Palumbo, son of Mario and Louise. Mario Palumbo was a former state attorney general and senator.

Corey Palumbo and his wife, Cristin, walked the red carpet with Garner on Friday night.

“His parents were the kind of members of the community that you were, as kids, very careful around because you didn’t want to get in trouble with them,” Garner said with a laugh. “I knew that Corey’s mom always put on fashion shows.

“As a kid, your ideas of what’s happening are very different,” she said. “Now I look back and really see a family that had such a role of leadership in the community and in the state overall, and I think that Corey and Cristin are continuing that. … That’s what we need in this state. We need people who have been here their whole lives to want to commit to taking us into the next generation.”

Once inside, Garner and guests nibbled on hors d’oeuvres, soups, sushi and other foods.

Pfister and others made brief appearances on the dance floor as a full band performed Frank Sinatra tunes, as well as “I Will Always Love You,” “Dancing in the Street,” “When I Fall In Love” and other tunes.

Watch a video clip here

Source: The Charleston Gazette