Night of Hope 2023: The Most Magical Evening…

by Brandi Lytle
Photo of Night of Hope program with evening purse, sports jacket, faux fur wrap on "Night of Hope 2023: The Most Magical Night" on Not So Mommy..., an infertility & childless blog

Before we talk about the most magical evening, I have a feeling I know what initially went through your mind when you first read the title of this blog…

2023?!  But it’s 2024, Brandi!

Yes, I realize that as January comes to a close and the second month of 2024 is upon us, many are looking ahead, trying to maintain goals we set for the coming year, hoping this year is a gentle one, a good one…  I am doing this–looking toward 2024.

But I am also continuing to reflect on 2023, especially on November 2023–the Night of Hope, to be exact.

I’ve already told you about my search for the perfect dress, plus the process I went through to write the perfect speech.  Today, I’d love to share my thoughts about the actual gala.  I won’t call it “perfect.”  It was, however, the most magical evening.  So, if you’ll indulge me, I’ll tell you about it…

The Most Magical Evening . . .

Before the gala…

Honorees were asked to arrive no earlier than 5 PM, but no later than 5:15.  We were told there wasn’t a “waiting area,” so guests were asked to arrive at 6:30—when the gala was set to begin.  So, Dane walked me the three NYC blocks from our hotel to Cipriani’s.  We arrived about 5:10 PM.  He headed back to the hotel to get ready, and I went into the event space.

The accommondations were spectacular.  As I began to take it all in, I noticed other honorees.  It was a bit nerve-wracking to be there all by myself.  I’m an introvert.  Dane is the extrovert.  And I lean on him a lot to do the small talk.  But the other honorees were welcoming and drew me into the group.

“You look nervous, too!” one of them exclaimed.

“Oh, crap!” I thought.  “Is it that obvious?” I wondered.

Before I could over-analyze too much, the talk quickly shifted to our outfits, our work.  Others were so complimentary about Not So Mommy…  All I could say was, “Thank you.”  I had read about the others’ work, but my mind was blank.  I simply couldn’t find the words.  Which seems ridiculous because I’m a blogger!  But writing is so much different than a face-to-face conversation…

We took a few photos on the orange carpet.  And then, it was time for everyone to practice their acceptance remarks.

The Rehearsal…

At this point, I was shaking.

When I get nervous, one of two things happens.  Either I get hot and my face flushes.  (And I had prayed that wouldn’t happen because I didn’t want bright red cheeks in my photos.)  Or I get cold and can’t stop shivering.  (Thanks for answering my prayers, God!  No red cheeks for me!  Ha!)

As I stood at the bottom of the stairs, waiting to go on stage, I listened to the remarks on the introduction video that would be played before I received my Hope Award for Social Influence.  And I nearly cried!  Hearing kind words being spoken about Not So Mommy…  Listening to them describe me as an “infertile, post-menopausal, childless not by choice, endo warrior…”  Well, those words were in the bio that I submitted.  As I stood there, however, I realized that 600+ people were going to hear that I’m post-menopausal and childless…  Well, the nerves struck again.  Why was I so brutally honest in my submission?!

But I couldn’t think about that long, as it was time for me to walk up the stairs.

Wait.  What’s going on?  Why is my foot not working properly?  Oh.  The hem of my dress is getting stuck in the sparkles on my shoes.  Okay.  Good to know.  I’ll definitely have to make sure that doesn’t happen during the actual event.

I made it on stage.  I made it through practicing my acceptance remarks.  (BTW—Presidential Monitors are cool!)  No tears.  Didn’t even choke up.

A text…

At this point, it was after 6:00.  I checked my phone to see if Dane had texted.  And I saw a text from my favorite nephew.  I didn’t realize he knew I’d be at the Night of Hope!  Well, he didn’t.  He was texting me his Christmas list.  Oh, how this memory makes me smile!  A childless aunt at the Night of Hope receiving a text from one of her kids about presents.  That moment…  That’s absolute perfection!

My hubby arrived…The Night of Hope 2023 - Brandi and Dane Lytle

Soon after the best text ever, I looked up and saw my handsome, smiling hubby walking toward me.  And I smiled.  And I felt such relief.  My person was there.  Oh my gosh!  I didn’t cry that evening, but I’m crying now.  Remembering how I felt when I saw Dane…  Remembering the photo we took together.  My favorite photo from the evening.  Remembering how he kept telling me that I was beautiful and powerful…  He’s a BIG reason why the evening was so magical for me…

The doors opened…

Photos of Brandi and Dane Lytle at the Night of Hope 2023

At last, the doors opened and hundreds of people entered Cipriani’s.  We joined the crowd in the cocktail reception area.  We took photos at one of those booths where they print off what kind-of looks like a bookmark.  We stood amongst the crowd.  I couldn’t drink.  I was so nervous that I knew alcohol was not going to help the situation.  I started getting a bit overwhelmed.  So, I asked if we could escape the crowd.  Of course, Dane agreed.

We were the first ones to sit down in the dinner area.  But I needed a moment to just breathe.  To be with my love.  To calm the nerves.

Dinner…

And then, it was dinner time.  It was delicious.  Though Dane and I were both so super careful not to get anything on our fancy clothes!  We kept looking at each other and grinning as we tried to be proper and polite.  Now, I’m chuckling!

Time for Awards…

There were a few presentations during the meal, some chit-chat, dessert…  Then, it was time for the honorees to receive their awards!  I watched.  I listened.

Time for My Award…

And then, it was time for me to be on my own again.  I said “see you later” to Dane and followed the sweet lady who had come to get me, to show me the way to go behind stage…

I wasn’t shaking anymore.  I was nervous, though.  Excited.  Really couldn’t believe I was being recognized in front of all these people.  I stood at the bottom of the stairs.  I was introduced.  The video played.  It was time.  I declined help going up the stairs.  Gathering up up my dress so it wouldn’t get caught on my shoes, I made it on stage.  I smiled.  I accepted my award.  I handed my award back.  I made my way to the podium.  I started to deliver my acceptance remarks.  And I as I said my thank you to my wonderful husband, I looked over to our table and saw him sitting there, phone raised as he videotaped my speech.  Tears sprang to my eyes and I got choked up.  You can’t tell in the video.  But I know what willpower it took for me to not let those tears flow…

And then, there was applause and I was walking down the stairs and getting my picture taken with my award and heading back to my table to see Dane and show him what I had received.

The rest of the magical evening…

More awards.  Updates on fundraising.  And the evening was coming to an end…

Dane and I took a few more photos.  People I had only connected with via social media found me and congratulated me and told me how important my work is, how important it is for me to share my story…

And for the third time that evening, tears welled up in my eyes.  They didn’t fall.  I willed them not to fall.  But the recognition of me, my work, my life, my story…  Well, it truly means more than I can express in words.

Dane and I hung around until nearly everyone was gone.  I just wanted it to last as long as possible.  At about 10:30 PM, we exited Cipriani’s and walked the three blocks back to our hotel.  Where I took a few more pictures.  And then, took off the perfect dress and fell into bed…

Thank you, fabulous ones…

Thanks for letting me relive this magical evening, fabulous ones.  It will forever be one of the highlights of my adult life.  And I got to experience this because you read my blog, you follow me on social media…  From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.

Photo Collage of the Night of Hope 2023 & Hope Award for Social Influence Recipient, Brandi Lytle of Not So Mommy...

If anything I wrote resonates with you, please tell us about it in the comments.  (You can put your name as an initial if you’d like to remain anonymous.)

If you’d like to see photos from the Night of Hope 2023 Gala, just click here…

Do you appreciate the work I’m doing here at Not So Mommy…

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Featured Photo:  Photo taken by me, Brandi Lytle; Edited using Canva

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2 comments

Sherry February 5, 2024 - 4:04 pm

Your words put me right there with you at that grand event. Tears are flowing from pure joy, love and intense pride in the girl I raised that is now a phenomenal young woman. There is no limit to what you will accomplish in your future.❤

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Brandi Lytle February 6, 2024 - 1:31 pm

Thanks, Mom. I love you…

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