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Posted on 27 Jan 2010 at 4:23pm
By RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer lopez@dallasvoice.com

DIFFA embarks on a new year by shaking things up by reinvented its famed annual event


TO THE DOGS | For DIFFA 2010, the gala was split, and items added to the auction like this doghouse designed by architect Bentley Tibbs. (Charles David Smith/DIFFA)

AUCTION BLOCK
SILENT AUCTION SOIREE at Union Station
400 S. Houston St.
Feb. 3. at 6 p.m. $25–$35.
214-748-8580. DiffaDallas.org.
……………………………………………………

Dallas hardly suffers for lack of high society events and charity functions. So when DIFFA decided to divide its yearly gala into two events, it gladdened partygoers who had an open day on their calendars — even if that day happened to be a Wednesday.

But the decision is more about doubling the chance of attracting fans. DIFFA figures its reinvention, which starts this week with a party at Union Station and continues with a performance at the Winspear Opera House in March, comes along just in time for the new decade.

"The board of trustees took a hard look at their numbers and listened to their supporters," says Sam Stiles, director of development. "It was clear a change was going to have to occur in order to sustain it. This way we can introduce DIFFA to another audience as well as bring DIFFA closer to community that always supported us."

In 2010, timing is perfect to mix it up a bit. But it’s too early to decide if this will be their m.o. from now on: The bifurcation is only a trial run for now, occasioned by an efficient use of the venues.

"The Winspear is a beautiful a facility. Unfortunately, we were afraid there was no room in the lobby to get the space the auction needed and people would not have enough time see everything and bid," says event co-chair Carol Quist. "A lot of people have put a lot of time into this and we’d be afraid the merchandise would get lost."

This year, the merchandise has grown beyond the iconic denim jackets famously associated with the fundraiser (though jackets will still be in the mix). Stiles says changes were needed to keep the event fresh, so DIFFA has added home accessories, handmade decorative boxes and even doghouses.

Yes, doghouses. Quist knows there are people who will do any and everything for their pets.

"Back in 2000, we had the Dog Day Afternoon event and it was a whole day of fun," she says. "Everybody enjoyed that so much that we thought it needed to resurface."

Architects created unique works of art for the auction that double as canine abodes. Orange windows, built in food and water bowls and suspension tubes are all part of the designs imagined and realized for some lucky pets. Although with such elaborate design, these doghouses could easily double as sculpture.

"Feedback has been very positive. The diehards want to come and buy something, but they may have one too many denim jackets. We had to get a little more diversified. Plus, this separate auction is another reason to come to a party and give back in another way," Quist says.

Whether it’s two events or one, the focus remains the same. Quist assures their only expectation is "to raise the most money we’ve ever raised."

While Stiles concurs, he chimes in with his own view: "We really do believe it’s so spectacular that it couldn’t be held in one night."    

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 29, 2010.

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