Friday night in the city of Melbourne, loud and alight with people celebrating the end of the business week, Muggle and wizarding folk alike. The night was warm and thick, but no one here would ever pass up the opportunity to enjoy a few hours without the Sun high in the sky. But there were too many people out on the streets because they had no other place to be. Too many who never had a chance to celebrate, or anything to celebrate.
And that's why Leanna was where she was tonight: in the event room of a luxury, high rise hotel.
Joan had tried to take control of the benefit. She wanted to rent out a huge, expensive space and fill it with floating candles and hire people to decorate lavishly. She tried to hire really high end caterers, gourmet chefs, and a DJ of all things. She had even advised Leanna to hand out little gift bags to the people attending as a little incentive. They had argued about it over and over, but Leanna finally put her foot down. No way were they spending what money had already been donated on a fancy party just to impress the benefactors and kiss their asses. The money was for kids, the benefit was to help the kids. Period.
But that had left Leanna with a dilemma: she knew she did indeed have to impress potential backers, but she would not let it turn into an extravagant glorified circle jerk fest for them either. Not one she was going to use the money for the kids to fund, anyway. As it was, when she started reaching out to a few people she knew to be sympathetic to her cause, the owner of this hotel had contacted her. He was a fellow Muggleborn wizard who had grown up in England and with very religious parents, so his own childhood had been a rough one. He had been one of Leanna's initial major contributors that helped get this charity off the ground, and he had immediately contacted her to offer up his event space and event services free of charge. Leanna had been extremely hesitant to accept his offer; the last thing she needed was people assuming that she used funds from the charity for this. Plus, she assumed he had some other reason for offering so much whether it be to gather more business for his hotel or some sort of tax thing. But he had insisted and Joan had looked at her with wide puppy dog eyes when Leanna had told her about it. So here they were.
The decorations were simple but elegant enough to impress. A platform with a podium at the far end, a long table with gourmet food and snacks along one wall, and a fully stocked bar. Several round tables covered in deep blue tablecloths charmed to be stain-proof and simple white candles surrounded by simple white flowers as centerpieces. At every setting was a card holder with cards that instructed anyone who wanted to make a donation today to speak with Joan or to fill out their contact information on the back if they wished to be contacted at a later date. All in all, it looked nice but it wasn't in your face or anything. Leanna was actually kind of pleased with how it came out.
As everyone got settled into their seats, Joan approached the podium to get everyone's attention while Leanna fidgeted in her seat at one of the tables closest to the platform. She was dressed to the nines, in a fitted and very dark blue three-piece suit and matching tie. Her dad sat on one side of her in a tux and his wife on his other side, and on her other side was her little brother Lee looking very adorable in his little tux. Joan came to the end of her little introduction and gestured toward her; everyone's head turned to get a look at her. Leanna rose from her seat, looking stiff and grim, when in reality she was trying to calm the knotting in her stomach. She really, really hated public speaking.
When she got to the podium, she paused. She looked over at her dad, who gave her a thumbs up, and Lee beamed and gave her a little wave. Leanna knew a few faces in the crowd from school and Quidditch, but most others she only knew by name and reputation. After the moment was up, she took a deep breath and started to speak.
"Thank you for coming out tonight, everyone." Solid start to any speech. "Most of you know my name already, whether from school or my Quidditch career, or of course, the invitations or Joan's speech or the sign outside or... actually if you don't know my name, you're probably in the wrong room." An appropriate chuckle went up from the people watching. The corner's of Leanna's lips twitched up slightly into a little smile and the slight quiver to her voice evened out a little. "I started this little charity a year ago this past Monday, shortly after my appointment to the National Australian Quidditch Team as one of their starting Beaters. And I started it because of a growing problem within our community, a community in which the wizarding world intermingles so closely with the Muggle one. A problem I experienced myself first hand as a child, and that is the problem of Muggleborn children abused by their Muggle families for their magic." A pause to observe the room and their reactions. No one looked particularly incredulous. They knew what they were there for. "Of course, as a kid, I thought I was the only one, just like every kid does. And you might look at me now and say, 'Well, you seem to be doing just fine for yourself now' and you would be correct. After all of the abuse, the fights, the mental and physical scars, after the people who had raised me ultimately disowned me, I had my real family to take care of me and love me. And with a lot of hard work and support, I did turn out okay. But the fact is, as I got older, I realized I wasn't the only one, and that too many others didn't have the support system to fall back on like I did. No kid should ever have to go through that." A few people in the crowd mumbled and nodded to each other; her dad was beaming.
Another deep breath, and Leanna continued. "Now, if you're here tonight, you probably already agree with me. I hope you do, anyway. Our first year, we were mostly funded by myself and a few like-minded individuals I knew, and we made some efforts but we want to do more. We want to do more, spread to other states, and extend our resources to Squibs and halfbreeds in bad homes." At the mention of Squibs and half-breeds, Leanna saw a few sour faces and Leanna allowed herself a moment to grind her teeth in anger. Oh, sure as long as you were protecting kids from the hands of abusive Muggles, everything was peachy, but gods forbid the wizarding world itself could ever be in the same boat as them. But she relaxed almost instantly and continued. "And to do that, I need your help. The kids need your help. Our help. Please, help me help them." One more deep breath and a smile. "Thank you."
Leanna stepped away from the podium, noticing for the first time that her legs felt like jello. Thank you, anxiety and fear of public speaking. She managed to not stumble, somehow, as Joan returned to the podium.
"A round of applause for our amazing host!" There was a slightly more than polite amount of applause, and Leanna nodded. "Now, if you've made a final decision to help the children, you can see me about the particulars, and if you prefer to be contacted at a later date, please fill out the information cards at your table and we will contact you at a later date. In the meantime, please enjoy the refreshments and open bar provided courtesy of the hotel! Thank you, everyone!"
Leanna stepped off the platform, then helped Joan down. People had started moving about, chatting amongst themselves, as Leanna approached her family. Rick kissed her on the forehead and his wife gave her a hug, expressing how proud they were of her and gushing repeatedly. Lee cheered loudly and hugged her tightly around the waist, and Leanna laughed and picked him up to hug him.
Joan interrupted and tugged at her arm. "Come on, Leanna! You've got to mingle! Schmooze these elite snobs! 'Kiss some asses', as you like to put it!"
Leanna groaned. "I already gave a speech, isn't that enough? I don't like mingling!"
Joan shook her head. She was almost 20 years older than Leanna, assigned to her by the team to be her PR person and ended up being her assistant when she started the charity, and she really liked to Mother Hen the hell out of Leanna. "You know that it isn't enough, Leanna. Now go on!" She shoved Leanna a little toward the crowd. Leanna told her family she'd catch up with them in a bit, and Rick picked up Lee and they headed over to the table of snacks. Leanna glanced at Joan one last time, but she already had a couple of people approaching her with questions and wanting to donate.
Leanna made a little mocking face, then started approaching people and greeting them with a very suave, "Um, hi. How are you this evening?"