(Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News Group)
                                Shannon O’Phelan celebrates after winning a round at Not Your Grandma’s Bingo Saturday night at Bayview Hall. One of the hosts, Bobbi Jo Blessings, who also goes by Kerry Nielsen, verifies her card.

(Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News Group) Shannon O’Phelan celebrates after winning a round at Not Your Grandma’s Bingo Saturday night at Bayview Hall. One of the hosts, Bobbi Jo Blessings, who also goes by Kerry Nielsen, verifies her card.

Bingo, bingo!

Fabulous fundraiser combines drag queens and fun

Island Senior Resources held its most fabulous fundraiser Saturday for critical services for some of the island’s most vulnerable citizens.

Approximately 150 people gathered at Bayview Hall to sing, throw paper airplanes, eat food and play bingo.

Sylvia O’Stayformore and Bobbi Jo Blessings — otherwise known as Benjimin Blair and Kerry Nielsen — from Not Your Grandma’s Bingo rolled into town for the sixth year to host a more animated version of the game than many might be used to. The 21-and-over event also included a variety of beverage choices. Purchases of food, drink and raffle tickets all went to help Island Senior Resources, which provides meals, adult day care services, transportation and support to older residents and adults with disabilities.

“This is awesome,” said Greenbank resident Shannon O’Phelan after winning a round of bingo. She decided to donate her winnings back to Island Senior Resources. “It’s a great cause, and I’m thrilled to help.”

This year the event, which was originally scheduled for February, was Chinese New Year themed. Red lanterns hung from the ceiling, place mats displayed the Chinese Zodiac and each table had a red envelope. Traditionally, the envelopes are given during the holiday as a way to wish good luck and prosperity.

The nonprofit’s services are about 54 percent funded by the state and federal government, said Executive Director Cheryn Weiser.

The bingo hosts, Sylvia and Bobbi Jo, travel around the greater Seattle area to help raise money for organizations that help seniors. They’ll return Aug. 17 for another bingo event at the fairgrounds in Langley.

The drag duo are professionals at making the act of donating fun.

The beginning of the evening included Run for the Virgins, in which those who’ve never been to the show before held up cash and two participants raced to collect the most. Throughout the night, attendees could pay to send a spanking by one of the queens to a person of their choice. The chosen target then had the option to match the donation to send it back.

Past events have raised an average of $5,000, Weiser said. Event organizers said Saturday’s bingo is on track to raise about the same amount.

Three board members went to Not Your Grandma’s Bingo event in Seattle as a road test before hosting it on the island, she said. Skye Dunn, communications manager, said he was drawn to it because of its appeal to all ages (over 21).

“As a not-senior person on South Whidbey, there’s not a lot of interactive entertainment,” he said. “You can go out with your friends and be part of the show.”

The hosts performed songs between rounds and encouraged the audience to sing and sway along.

Tickets usually sell out fast, said Robin Bush, outreach manager. The fairgrounds will provide a bigger venue and allow more people to join in the ruckus in August.

O’Phelan said she came to support Meals on Wheels, which delivers meals to her mother and father in law, and the night made for a “fantastically fun” way to help the effort.

“It’s a great way for the community to come together and have fun,” said Bush,, “and benefit Island Senior Resources, which really benefits the whole community.”

(Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times)
                                Sylvia O’Stayformore, otherwise known as Benjimen Blair, sings a rendition of Say a Little Prayer during a break at Not Your Grandma’ Bingo Saturday at Bayview Hall. The event raised approximately $5,000 for Island Senior Resources.

(Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times) Sylvia O’Stayformore, otherwise known as Benjimen Blair, sings a rendition of Say a Little Prayer during a break at Not Your Grandma’ Bingo Saturday at Bayview Hall. The event raised approximately $5,000 for Island Senior Resources.

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