The 2014 Charm City Countdown was held in Timonium. This year's event will be from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 31, at the Hilton Baltimore BWI Airport Hotel, 1739 W. Nursery Road, Linthicum Heights.
The 2014 Charm City Countdown was held in Timonium. This year's event will be from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 31, at the Hilton Baltimore BWI Airport Hotel, 1739 W. Nursery Road, Linthicum Heights. (Baltimore Sun file)

A decade ago, Eldersburg nonprofit Caring Communities held its first Charm City Countdown, a New Year’s Eve gala designed to raise money for the then-new organization. Only about 100 people turned out that year, but organizer Mona Freedman said the group was committed to the concept and stuck with it for another year’s celebration.

It grew in its second year and did so again the next year, and pretty soon the event had ballooned into the current celebration, home to about 1,500 revelers, multiple bars, a half-dozen musicians and more.

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This year, the event is themed after the musical “Chicago,” with partygoers invited to dress in their 1920s and gangster best.

This is the second year the event will be held at the Hilton Baltimore BWI Airport Hotel — at 1739 W. Nursery Road, near BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport — a move Freedman said occurred to help the event expand. She said the location turned out to be the perfect spot for the party as being located outside of the city has been more of a draw for people from the surrounding areas.

With free parking and the ease of finding the venue, Freedman said she’s happy they have found their new home.

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The celebration features seven party areas each with different focuses; gourmet buffets including shrimp, oysters, sirloin beef and chicken; and an open bar including specialty bars like the shooter bar, martini bar and wine bar. In the past year, Freedman said they’ve figured out how to improve on their planning even from the success of last year’s event.

“Anytime you’re at a new property, they’re learning how best to host you,” Freedman said. “They’re learning people don’t want to wait, so there’s going to be more martini bars, more shooter bars, more pick up and go beers. It slows things down if you don’t do that, and the last thing people want to do on New Year’s is wait.”

Caring Communities is a nonprofit dedicated to aiding those with disabilities.

Founded in 1998, they began by training respite care volunteers and sponsoring a respite care registry that families can access to find a baby sitter trained to work with children with disabilities. Soon, they expanded out into their annual Disability Expo connecting people with disabilities with those that can help them, from personal care attendants to wheelchair repair to makers of assistive and adaptive equipment.

“The maze of supports and services is so difficult to maneuver,” Freedman said. “You could have a child with a disability, or you could become disabled, and all of a sudden you’re thrust into this world that your friends are not a part of and you don’t know where to find the supports and services you need.”

Freedman said she came up with the idea for the Charm City Countdown fundraiser by attending all-inclusive New Year’s celebrations with her husband. She said after several years, it occurred to her that she could throw a better party than the ones she was attending all while raising money for her nonprofit.

“We want to keep our organization in the forefront,” Freedman said. “The bigger the event, the more help we get both as a fundraiser and also from exposure.”

Each year, Freedman said, they brainstorm a new theme for the event. In the past they’ve hosted masquerade balls, Edgar Allan Poe-themed parties and “The Great Gatsby”-style celebrations.

“We like to be creative and come up with something very striking,” Freedman said. “People love to dress up, so it's up to us to give them an excuse to.”

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