Mad Hatters for Haiti at Truckee’s B of A |

Mad Hatters for Haiti at Truckee’s B of A

Jillian Rodriguez
Special to the Sun

Paul Kovach/Community submitted photo

TRUCKEE and#8212; Mad Hatters for Haiti took over Truckeeand#8217;s Bar of America in a typical Tahoe-style demonstration of why Truckee resident, Sam Bloch, chose the name GrassRoots United for the disaster-relief organization he founded in the wake of the earthquakes in Haiti.

The fundraiser began small when Bar of America bartender, Kelly Smiley, thought to donate her tips one night as her way of helping GRU. When she told her coworkers, an event began to grow. Before she knew it, Smiley was organizing a benefit show with three bartenders and a five-member band all working free, with raffle prizes donated by businesses and the Bar of America itself donating 10 percent fo the eveningand#8217;s dinner and bar sales.

With a theme inspired by the new Alice in Wonderland movie, three beautiful ladies in white-face paint served drinks with such mad charm their collective tips were the largest chunk of the $1,700 raised. and#8220;People were donating $5 on one drink,and#8221; Smiley said. The $10 recommended donation was combined with the raffle, so 12 tickets rewarded those who could pay a cover charge (additional tickets were $1 each). However, no one was turned away for lack of funds. and#8220;A lot of my friends are poor, and thereand#8217;ve been benefits all week,and#8221; Smiley said. The payoff was a bar tip pool that reached 40 percent of bar sales, twice what one might expect on a normal night.

Raffle prizes have an appeal of their own, however; in this case, dozens of prizes with an average value of $60 drew in almost as much cash as the bartenders in their mad hats, and every raffle drawing filled the bar with cheering. With everyone enjoying it too much to stop, additional prizes continued to materialize. Even a giant top hat worn by local band, Horsemouth, who performed for the event. All the hats were made by lead singer, Josh Roelle, who became a true Mad Hatter just for the occasion.

Roelle hosted a craft night where they learnedhat-making trade basics. Roelle bought and#8220;about 40 yardsand#8221; of fabric and spent the better part of 50-odd hours hatting. Horsemouth played four short sets interspersed with raffle drawings. During the second set the bandsand#8217; hats began appearing on audience membersand#8217; heads.

and#8220;This is exactly what I expect from these guys,and#8221; said GRU Director, Sam Bloch when he heard the details. If you missed your chance to donate, visit