Cruzin' Courses didn't start out to be a charity function. When Cathy Schlumbrecht started it in 2006 her goal was to show her female friends that not only was downtown Santa Cruz safe, but it was very cool.
Now it has grown into one of the hottest tickets in town, a progressive dinner that starts at 4 p.m. and ends as late as they can stay up. The 67 women paraded from restaurants to stores downtown, eating, drinking and taking in the sights of a city that some have come to fear.
They included politicians, bank executives and business owners.
"I wanted to reintroduce women to downtown," said Sclumbrecht, the vice president at Comerica Bank. "I was tired of the negative publicity. People were afraid to come here. Women had stopped coming here. I wanted them to see these stores. These are some of the coolest people in the world."
Schlumbrecht was president of the Chamber of Commerce when she started this and wanted to introduce something new and fun. She succeeded on both counts, according to the binders of successful women who dined and dashed.
"There is so much fun and camaraderie," said Karissa Paxton, an event planner with Coastside Couture. "My business partner never even came downtown before."
They did the downtown right, starting with martinis, vegetarian spring rolls, Hawaiian sea bass ceviche and ahi wontons at the Top of the Ritt, hosted by Hula's Island Grill, moving to vegan lentil soup, clam chowder and Pacific Rim salad at followed by champagne, Iveta biscuits and Ashby chocolate at the Artisan's Gallery.
Then there was a main course of chicken marsala, shrimp scampi or portobello mushroom ravioli at the Center Street Grill, and gourmet peanut brittle and coffee at Verve. Nightcaps were at Laili.
The event ended up raising $6,000-$7,000 which was given to the Santa Cruz Teen Center and Hope Services. There was also money for college scholarships and two of the women who got them were there to thank the crew.
Jennifer Yeung, 20, of Harbor High and Kaelyn Huang, 19, of Aptos High, both are at San Jose State University now, thanks to the money.
"My parents didn't want me to go to college because they couldn't afford it," said Huang, who is studying business. Both said they were inspired by the generosity of the Cruzin' women and wanted one day to be able to work with them and help raise money for other kids who needed it.
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