Realistically, how many people would come out to a benefit on a cold January night?

When organizers were planning the first gala fundraiser for the Worthington Educational Foundation a year ago, they did not know what to expect.

Realistically, how many people would come out to a benefit on a cold January night?

Try about 700.

That's right, said Pat Kelso, who was pleased -- and a little surprised -- that the first Evening of Support of Excellence filled the mall at the Shops at Worthington Place.

"I hope we have at least that many this year," said Kelso, who again has taken on the daunting task of pulling together the gala, to be held from 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, at the refurbished mall.

This year's installment will feature even more of what drew the crowd last year, including good food, a cash bar, entertainment and opportunities to bid on valuable and some unusual offerings in the live and the silent auctions.

Again, the proceeds will support the WEF, which provides grants to students and teachers in the Worthington schools. The money pays for innovative and creative projects that go beyond the basics.

Last year, the event netted $30,000, which was enough to cover the cost of a whole year's worth of grants.

Food will be provided by J. Liu Restaurant & Bar, Rivage Atlantique, Panera Bread, First Watch, Hills Market and the Rusty Bucket.

Masters of ceremony will be Chris Bradley (WBNS-10TV) and Amy Donovan (Oldies 93.3). Mall owner Tom Carter will be a celebrity bartender.

The live auction will feature a return of the dinner cooked by Worthington City Schools Superintendent Thomas Tucker. He will go to the purchaser's home and cook a Key West-themed dinner for up to 10 people.

Other live-auction items include a vacation beach house with five bedrooms in Holden Beach, N.C.; a beach condo with five bedrooms in Topsail, N.C.; and a private event that includes skin care and makeup for up to 10 women at Face Forward, one of the new shops at Worthington Place.

Nearly 100 items will be packaged for the silent auction.

Dinners will be served at local restaurants, including dinner for six at the chef's table at Cameron's American Bistro, earrings from Denig's Jewelers, a police ride-along, dinner at the Worthington fire house, golf rounds and OSU basketball tickets.

Many shops at the mall and businesses in the Worthington area have been generous with their donations, Kelso said.

Guernsey Bank is the main sponsor of the event.

Tickets are $25 and may be purchased online at or at the door.