‘Dreams of Mirabell’

Eden Dreams creates a springtime garden in midwinter.

By: Christian Kirkpatrick
   Could anything be more pleasant, in the harsh night of winter, than the thought of a garden party? Not just a barbecue on the deck. But a grand affair at a country estate with fountains and topiaries and mounds of delicacies. A party set in the time of lavish entertainments, of monarchs and powdered wigs.
   On Saturday night, 500 guests left their salt-encrusted cars in the Hyatt Regency parking lot to enter just such a scene. They were met in the lobby by a page in knee britches. He directed them to the domain of Duke and Duchess von Erlach, who were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary with a grand garden party and scavenger hunt.
   Called "Dreams of Mirabell," after the couple’s Mirabell Gardens, this 16th annual Eden Dream featured lovely garden views, ladies with impossibly high hairdos (one sported a miniature birdcage), a faithful maidservant, an insolent sculptor and, most important, the search for a famed sapphire.
   Before they arrived, the Von Erlach’s guests had received a map and a set of clues about the whereabouts of this gem, called the Salzach Sapphire. A guest who discovered where it was hidden would receive a fabulous prize.
   The author of this year’s dream, called "the Search for Salzach," was event co-chair Laura Jackson Novia. The Lawrenceville resident also coordinated the volunteer actors, the gracious Von Erlachs and their associates. "It has been a lot of fun," she said with a modest smile, "a chance to be creative."
   There was no shortage of creativity this evening. Kathleen Maguire Morolda, painter and owner of the Cranbury Station Galleries in Dayton, Monroe Township and Princeton, was on hand as Eden’s 2004 Featured Artist. Her vibrant watercolor of a shore scene has been turned into note cards that the institute is selling as a fund-raiser.
   "The Eden Institute has been a big supporter of my gallery for many years," Ms. Maguire Morolda commented. "They really go out of their way to support local businesses."
   Another guest who lent her talents for the event was Newtown, Pa. resident Sheri Barnes, who designed the event’s lavish printed materials. Leon Andors and Ancraft Press in Jersey City made her ideas a reality. Both donated their services.
   "For Eden, we would do anything," declared Mr. Andors.
   Serving his third year as an Eden Dreams co-chair was Richard Chibbaro, sales manager with Continental Airlines. He readily listed his reasons for supporting Eden with such devotion —it is a wonderful organization, the dedication of its staff, its endearing clients. Then he stopped.
   "I do it because it is the right thing," declared the Point Pleasant resident. "It’s as simple as that."
   Continental must feel the same way. Once again it supplied two round-trip, first-class tickets to anywhere it flies as the prize for the winner of the evening’s Eden Dream Search. She was Nancy Nemhauser of Princeton.
   Wachovia Bank was the event’s corporate sponsor. Senior vice president Stacy Mattia served on the event’s steering committee. Wachovia’s regional president for Central and Southern New Jersey, Susanne Svizeny was, along with singer Beverly Sills, an honorary co-chair for the event.
   "The Eden Institute exemplifies the kind of institution we like to support," Ms. Svizeny said, "and we need to give back, make a difference in the lives of these exceptional kids and adults."
   Along with Wachovia, the event’s honorary committee included Big Events; Bristol-Myers Squibb; Continental Airlines; Peter and Beverly Sills Greenough; Hale and Dorr; The Hermes Group; Hyatt Regency Princeton; Janssen Pharmaceutica; Herb and Shari Lurie; Performance Dynamics; Rhodia, Inc.; Taylor, Colicchio & Silverman, and Trumball Advisors.
   The Princeton-based Eden Family of Services is a nonprofit organization for children and adults with autism. Its Eden Institute provides year-round education for children and adolescents, as well as diagnostic and evaluative services and training for their parents and for professionals.
   Other "family members" include Wawa House Services, which offers early intervention services for autistic infants and toddlers and supplemental therapy for older children, and Eden ACREs, which supervises residential living for adults with autism. Eden WERCs offers adults with autism secure employment opportunities.
   Eden is expanding its WERCs program by building its fourth employment center and outreach training center. To be called Clayton Center, the facility will be located in West Windsor.
   When Eden came before the Township Planning Board, said West Windsor Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh, approval came quickly and easily. The board then thanked Eden for working in West Windsor.
   Why are so many people and institutions eager to help Eden?
   "We practice what we preach and do what we say we’ll do," said David Holmes, Eden’s president and executive director.
   And what Eden promises is a future for autistic children and adults, and hope for their parents.