Childrens Hospital Los Angeles is no stranger to doing things a little differently. For example, instead of using wheelchairs, the hospital ferries its patients in red wooden wagons outfitted with blankets, pillows and stuffed animals.
A decor element didn't work out as planned for a recent fund-raiser for the Red Wagon Society, a hospital auxiliary. No problem-the hospital's special event department turned to a topsy-turvy solution. Instead of placing a beach umbrella through the center of each table as planned, the team hung the umbrellas upside-down from the tent ceiling.
"Our original vision, to have the 60-inch umbrellas stand 8 feet above the round tables, didn't work when we actually tried it," says Terri Chapman, manager of special events for Childrens Hospital. "They looked too small for the tables."
But Chapman still wanted to use the umbrellas, which were custom-printed with the society's red wagon logo. So Jeff Sparks, sales consultant at Los Angeles-based Classic Party Rentals, suggested hanging them from the ceiling. Classic provided the tent and linens for the event.
To make sure the umbrellas would be arranged attractively, Chapman recruited Miguel Chenal, owner of the West Hollywood, Calif.-based event design firm M.A.C. Chenal also swagged the buffet and storyboards in Classic's red satin-stripe linen.
To fasten the 25 umbrellas to the tent frame, "we used lighting equipment accessories, such as adjustable knuckle clamps," Sparks explains. The team fastened the umbrellas in clusters of four and five. "Then we backlit them with droplights."
"Classic had to bring in extra-tall ladders," says Chapman. "It took hours to secure all the umbrellas and get the look right."
The result was worth it. "We knew we had achieved success when our guests began asking how they could buy the umbrellas," Chapman says. -T.M.