Golden Gala raises money, spirits during Northwest Classic week

Benefit dinner comes ahead of high school football game between Raines, Ribault

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s Rivalry Week between Raines and Ribault high schools in Jacksonville, which means the annual Northwest Classic.

It culminates with the big football game Saturday. Companion events around the game included Thursday evening's Golden Gala Benefit Dinner, which helps students from both schools get scholarships and incentives to succeed.

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"I mean this is an awesome event. In the sense that, you know, your alumni, the school of mine just have this great community event," said former NFL cornerback Lito Shepherd, Raines class of 1999.

Glo Smith, Ribault class of 1982, said, "I'm just excited about being here and looking forward to seeing everybody."

Doors at the Schultz Center opened about 7 p.m. Thursday, with dinner, live entertainment and even a champagne toast in celebration on the agenda.

The Golden Gala raises money and seems to raise spirits during Northwest Classic week. News4Jax's Tarik Minor and Melanie Lawson served as masters of ceremony. 

"This week is all about rivalry, but it's all in fun," said Audris Holt, Raines class of 1999. "At the end of the day, we all have one common goal and that's to make sure the students in our community are well taken care of."

Earl Kitchings, Raines class of 1972, said, "I don't think you'll find too many rivalries where schools are this close together and families have crossed the lines -- brothers playing brothers, neighbors playing neighbors. I don't think you see these types of rivalries in a lot of places. This is unique."

Where does the money go? Students get academic scholarships and testing vouchers for the SAT, ACT or PERT. More than 2,400 students between both schools enjoy the benefits. 

"It's great to have an opportunity to come back and celebrate with fellow alum, to meet up with old folks who I had an opportunity to see and to really raise funds for students -- students deserving and in need of some additional resources," said June Scarlett, Ribault class of 1982. "It's incredible."

The Raines Vikings (3-2) visit the Ribault Trojans (2-3) on Saturday at 2 p.m. in the 50th installment of the Northwest Classic. The game will be televised live on WJXT and The Vikings lead the all-time series 35-14 and have won the last two meetings.

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