After losing both her parents to Alzheimer's disease, Joanne Brezina decided to make it her mission to raise money to help find a cure.
Together with her daughter Lisa Ramirez, co-owner of Viva Glam, the two have been organizing benefits for the past four years.
This year's fifth annual event, sponsored by the salon, will be held from 7 to 11 p.m. tonight at the Westwood in Garwood and will include an open bar, dinner, dancing, a tricky tray and a raffle.
Each year the event has become larger and more successful, Brezina said. The inaugural benefit, held at the American Legion in Rahway, had 60 people in attendance, while last year 179 people came out to support the cause.
"The American Legion donated the hall, but each year it kept getting bigger and bigger," Brezina said. "This year it will be held at the Westwood in Garwood and we've been told that can accommodate 260 people comfortably."
Brezina said she is continually amazed by the kindness and generosity of people who donate prize baskets and gift cards as well as their time.
"Everybody gets dressed up and the DJ donates his time, the photographer donates his time. There's great food and drinks and lots of dancing. Sometimes it's hard to get people off the dance floor to raffle off the prizes," Brezina said.
Speaking of prizes, Brezina said Walter Bauman jewelers has already donated three gift cards. Last year she and her former husband purchased a 32" television to be raffled.
"We've had tickets to 'Wicked' donated and the Paper Mill is always very generous. The Holiday Inn is making a contribution and the Rennaissance Inn is donating a free night's stay with breakfast the next morning included. Last year's 50/50 raffle was over $800," she said.
The annual benefit isn't the only charitable endeavor the ladies from Viva Glam support.
"The girls are like family and they help with all the events throughout the year," Brezina explained. "The Alzheimer's benefit is the gigantic one but they do things all year long. Viva Glam has a 'Cuts for Cancer' event every October where the clients get their haircut, have a little something to eat, and buy raffle tickets. All the proceeds for this event go to the American Cancer Society, including the employees' tips.
"The girls also collect items for the battered women's shelter such as toiletries, clothes, shoes, strollers, diaper, and cribs. Their salon has become the drop-off unit for this worthy cause."
Tickets for the Alzheimer's benefit, held the night before Mother's Day, are $60 per person and make a great gift for moms, Brezina said. Tickets can be purchased at the salon, either in person or by phone.
"We raised $8,700 at last year's Alzheimer's Benefit," Brezina said. "This year, with the help of the community, we would like to achieve our goal of $10,000. I would like to take the time to say thank you to Viva Glam for all the efforts you have brought forth in trying to make a difference, and for showing everyone how your team gives back."
Anyone who is unable to attend but would like to make a donation can do so by making a check out to Alzheimer's Association and dropping it off or mailing it to Viva Glam at 1117 South Ave. Westfield, NJ 07090. Tee shirts will be given out to those who donate.
To purchase tickets, call Viva Glam Salon at 908-233-0800.