Denim & Diamonds: A Fitting Cause

author photo two

Abby Thonen and Sandy Collins.

Abby Thonen and Sandy Collins.

Staff Writer

While the season of galas may be drawing to a close, there is one perennial favorite left on most people’s social calendar: Denim & Diamonds on June 6, a glamorous event of fine food, drink and unforgettable music –  with a twist. Black tie is eschewed, and instead, denim is favored for a night geared towards serving a fabulous cause.

Now in it’s seventh year, Denim and Diamonds is being co-chaired by Abby Thonen and Sandy Collins, who both think that the unique setting and dress code make it one of the best nights in Louisville.

“It’s like the un-Gala,” Thonen said. “It still has a high-class look and feel, still attracts a lovely crowd, but is also more casual.”

“I think people like the casualness of the event,” Collins added.

For Thonen, it’s her second year chairing the event, while for Collins, she’s co-chairing for the first time, having served on the committee for the last few years. In fact, it was the personal nature of the cause that pushed Collins to step up her participation.

“My father-in-law, Bill Collins, passed away from Parkinson’s,” Collins said. “And we built the Bill Collins Parkinson’s Center with Frazier Rehab, so of course we’ve been heavily involved with that. I was on the committee for the past three or four years. When Abby asked for me to co-chair, of course I said ‘OK.’ We have a lot of great people on the committee and we have to oversee everything.”

All the money raised from the gala will go towards the Parkinson Support Center of Kentuckiana, a grassroots nonprofit whose work is geared towards providing support groups as well as exercise classes for people suffering from Parkinson’s disease, with the goal of ensuring that no individual with Parkinson’s feels that they are facing the disease alone. For Thonen and Collins, the difference that the center is making throughout 45 counties in Kentucky and Southern Indiana is measurable.

“We talked to a volunteer who has Parkinson’s and has had it for 11 years,” Thonen said. “She said that this year is the best that she’s ever felt, even though it’s a disease that gets progressively worse. But with the water aerobics and support groups, her saying that to us made it real to me, and made me realize that we’re really making a difference.”

As for the gala, the reason for its ongoing success is the fact that the disease resonates with increasingly more people who want to do something about it.

“Getting the word out and having people who want to contribute their time and money to Parkinson’s is great,” Collins said. “I feel that everybody has a little connection in some way to Parkinson’s, whether it’s someone in their family or a friend, and unfortunately there are a lot of people getting diagnosed, but the word is really getting out.”

One way in which it’s evident that the event is having an impact is in the fact that Denim and Diamonds has gotten bigger year over year, so much so that this year it’s moving from its regular setting of Locust Grove to the Marriott East where, according to Thonen and Collins, the bash will be bigger and more splendid than before, including a bourbon theme.

Abby Thonen and Sandy Collins.

Abby Thonen and Sandy Collins.

“With the move to the Marriott East, it’s raising the bar,” Thonen said. “Out there we have a bourbon theme, but we’re still keeping it contemporary. People are going to feel like we’re bringing it up a notch. Also this year we have a great, great band playing: Burning Las Vegas.”

“They’re like a Las Vegas show,” Collins is quick to add about the band, Nashville’s foremost funk, rock, rhythm and blues soul band that features a horn section, rhythm section and three powerful female vocalists. “I think everybody is going to be excited about the music, and Tim Laird is the emcee, and he’s always so fun.”

If that wasn’t enough, there will also be great food on offer and cocktails as well as the obligatory auctions, including a once in a lifetime trip to Tuscany up for grabs, for an odyssey of food and wine.

All in all, everything goes towards the best of causes.

“This is all about making a difference in the lives of people with Parkinson’s,” Collins said.

To purchase tickets by phone, call 502.254.3388. For more information, go to