The band doesn't play and the guests don't show, but the money raised by the Phantom Ball -- the annual fund-raiser sponsored by the Baltimore Reads literacy group -- is real enough.
The charitable event, built around a fictitious party supposedly scheduled for Feb. 22, is promoted as a way for donors to give money for the group's literacy efforts and know that the entire donation will be applied to the cause.
Billed as "the biggest party in town that never takes place," the Phantom Ball fund-raiser has a glossy invitation asking donors to contribute $122 per ticket or purchase a table, for $1,222. "We hope that you will not be able to attend," the card reads.
"The Phantom Ball has raised more than $500,000 in the past 11 years to support the educationally disadvantaged in our community," said Maggi G. Gaines, executive director of Baltimore Reads, a private nonprofit group involved in child and adult literacy programs.
Typically, the fund-raiser brings in about $50,000 each year for Baltimore Reads, said Susannah Bergmann, a spokeswoman for Baltimore Reads. This year, the group sent 6,000 invitations, and although the nonevent has a Feb. 22 date, organizers expect money to arrive throughout the year.
Sponsors for the event include Baltimore magazine; the Baltimore Sun Co.; CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield; the Daily Record; McCormick & Company Inc.; Robert Rytter & Associates; Sam's Bagels; Schmitz Press; and Treasure Chest Advertising Inc.
Information about the Phantom Ball and Baltimore Reads is available at 410-752-3595.