UAC022217001Better Health of Cumberland County presents its 20th anniversary Evening at the Theater on March 4, an opportunity for the public to enjoy delectable food, casino tables and dueling pianos while supporting an organization with an inspiring mission. This year’s black and white themed evening and will take place at Cape Fear Botanical Gardens.

Better Health is a nonprofit organization founded by Ruth Peters in 1958 with the vision to “improve access and availability of health care services for the underserved, low-income [Cumberland County] resident … through assistance, referral, and education.”

The organization relies solely on sponsors, grants, individual and corporate donations and fundraising events. Amy Navejas, executive director of Better Health since July 2015, said of Evening at the Theater: “This is our largest fundraiser. It is critical for our operation and the services we provide. One hundred percent of the funds raised go toward our core missions of diabetes treatment and education, emergency direct aid and childhood obesity prevention.”
Evening at the Theater owes its name to its original venue. Twenty years ago the staff, under the direction of then-Executive Director Roberta Humphries, conceived the idea for a fundraising event to be held at Cape Fear Regional Theatre. Since then, the event has evolved every few years in location and content, from dinner and a movie at the Cameo to skits at SkyView. In 2015, sponsor Timothy Edwards proposed to bring in elements of a casino, which proved to be a huge success and greatly increased the fundraising power of the event.

Navejas said, “It’s a lot of fun for everyone! We have a variety of attendees, whether individuals who come because they want to support a wonderful cause, those who are drawn by the casino, or those who want to have a great date night while benefitting the community in the process.”
Due to the popularity of casino-themed entertainment for the past two years, Navejas moved the venue to the Grand Hall and Orangery at Cape Fear Botanical Gardens for this 20th anniversary Evening. The move will create space for more attendees to enjoy the night’s offerings. The casino will have its own space in the Grand Hall, with the UNC-Duke game playing in the background. In the Orangery, adjacent to the Grand Hall, there will be food, bars, seating, room to dance and Blazin’ Keys Entertainment’s dueling pianos.

Dueling pianos is an interactive form of musical entertainment that involves two pianists onstage playing audience-requested songs. Casey Cotton, dueling pianist and founder of Blazin’ Keys, said of the act: “It allows people to be a part of something - a live show. It’s a thrill to see what songs people pick, and I love the challenge of two guys on pianos pulling off a song that it normally takes a whole band to do.” Cotton has played piano for 31 years and has performed in venues across the country, from Savannah Smiles Dueling Pianos in Georgia to Centrale Italian Kitchen & Bar in New York.

The Evening will also feature a 50/50 raffle. Attendees can purchase tickets from showgirls who will be floating between the Grand Hall and Orangery, and at the end of the night the winner will receive half of the cash earnings from raffle ticket purchases. Last year’s winner, Clark Reaves, won $2,000 and donated his winnings back to Better Health. There will be a wager board for the UNC-Duke game, with a gift basket for the person who correctly guesses the final score. Finally, there will be a premium liquor basket presented to the casino player with the highest chip count at the end of the night. “I am most excited about seeing the event come together as a whole,” said Brad Laub, volunteer board member and first-time Chair for this event. “The night is going to be full of excitement and energy!”

If you would like to support Better Health’s mission but cannot attend Evening at the Theatre, there are other ways to get involved. “One of our strongest needs is for volunteers to commit to at least one day a month at our diabetes clinic,” Navejas said. “We also always have shortages on used wheelchairs, scooters, transfer benches and eye glasses.” You can also simply donate cash to help Better Health reach their fundraising goal of $50,000. Visit and click “How To Help” for more details.

Marilyn Coffield, a registered nurse who has volunteered at Better Health since 1998, said of what she does: “The more I learned about Better Health, as I began working for the organization, the more I admired and resonated with their nonprofit mission. We are so grateful to be able to offer free services. We are so appreciative of the community support for events such as Evening at the Theater. It is a delight to see [people who come through Btter Health’s doors] move forward in their lives. We celebrate and encourage any small gains with them… they do the hard work and we are their cheerleaders!”

Tickets to Evening at the Theater are available for $75 per person using the form under “Events” at or by calling 910-483-7534.

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