By RUSTY PRAY

Go Correspondent

It’s an opportunity to get in touch with your inner hippie.

The Fred Lang Foundation, the fundraising arm of Charlotte Behavioral Health Care, will mark the 50th anniversary of the mental health and addiction relief facility with a salute to 1969, the Summer of Love.

A Summer of Love will be held beginning at 6 p.m. July 20 at the Charlotte Harbor Event & Conference Center in Punta Gorda. Tickets are $125 per person. A table of 10 is $1,500. The deadline for tickets is July 12.

“It’s going to be a very relaxing kind of atmosphere,” said Sherri Dennis, event chairwoman. Dennis is also an employee of the Charlotte Sun. “It’s not like one of your big galas where you have to dress up. You can actually put on your tie-dye T-shirt, jeans and sandals and come as a hippie.

“Everybody remembers the hippie era.”

Dennis said folks can dress up if they so desire, but the ‘60s weren’t known for the button-down look. Putting on Hush Puppy shoes qualified as dressing formally. Desert boots are an acceptable substitute for the pups.

“I’m bringing my go-go boots out of storage,” Dennis laughed.

The event will feature two VW buses – the preferred mode of transportation for flower children. One of the period vehicles will be a photo backdrop. The drivers will be long-haired barefoot dudes in wire-rim glasses, bell bottoms and bare feet.

The event also will feature a plated dinner – brownies are on the dessert menu — a silent auction and dancing to the Z Street Speakeasy Band out of Orlando. No word yet on whether Richie Havens will open with “Freedom” or Jimi Hendrix will close with the “Star Spangled Banner.”

A retro candy bar will offer everything from candy cigarettes to wax lips to candy necklaces.

“We have lots of great stuff,” Dennis said.

Organizers have not said whether dental professionals – cavity counselors – will be available.

The epicurean table will be extra special this year. Each person places $10 in an envelope, and if your table is selected, you get upgraded to fancier food. You can still have brownies for dessert. Swag bags will include Starbucks gift cards, Tervis tumblers, Pampered Chef items and other “swag.”

“It’s going to be amazing,” Dennis said.

There is, of course, a serious side to all of this. The Summer Ball is the Fred Lang Foundation’s biggest fundraiser of the year. Last year, the event raised more than $60,000, which went to provide urgent therapy and mental health services for children.

Charlotte Behavioral is the area’s largest nonprofit provider of community-based behavioral health care. Last year, according to statistics compiled by the facility, more than 12,000 individuals and families – including 3,000 children – were provided aid.

The ball traditionally is the highlight on the summer in Charlotte County. It is scheduled at this time of year to avoid the crazy busy time of season.

“We have the stage to ourselves,” Dennis said. “There’s so much going on in the fall. This gives us a chance to be the event. We’ve always enjoyed great support from the community.”

Peace, brother.

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