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Two Women and a Ford

Volunteers for the EyesOn Design Car Show Brunch

This Father’s Day, June 18, hundreds of car lovers will stroll the meadow for EyesOn Design at Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores, admiring 230 of the finest buffed, polished and chromed cars ever designed.

But to pull off the show, the major fundraiser for the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology which works with the visually impaired takes hundreds of volunteers.

On that Sunday, as all those cars are positioned in front of Edsel and Eleanor Ford’s former home, a handful of volunteers will manage the elegant Private Eyes champagne brunch under a large tent at the rear of the mansion, overlooking Lake St. Clair.

The longtime coordinators of that event are Ellen Chapin of Grosse Pointe Park and Darlene Sulad of Grosse Pointe Farms.

The two friends say they are happy to work with others involved with the DIO’s Friends of Vision who put on the brunch as well as providing a signature social event for the car show, which is ranked as one of the top five car shows in the country by USA Today. 

 “It’s an honor to be involved with this. And with the tent and the location and the lake, it’s absolutely the most beautiful place you could come up with,” said Sulad.

Chapin agreed. 

“Last year, we hosted 300 people, from the show sponsors and car owners to the car designers and judges, their families and children. It was a very diverse group,” said Chapin.

“And it’s quite interesting to meet the people and see familiar faces because we’ve been doing it for so long,” she said.

Sulad said it has also been a chance to give back.

When a tornado struck the Grosse Pointes years ago and damaged the roof of her home, one of the first people on the scene to help was her neighbor, Dr. Philip Hessburg, the medical director of the DIO. Coincidentally, Sulad’s mother was also his patient at the time. 

“That’s when I got involved,” said Sulad, who then met Chapin at a Friends of Vision event. 

In addition to everything else, she and Chapin work with the Ford House to choose the catered menu and arrange for the table decorations and centerpieces. 

“We make sure there are enough tables and that we don’t run out of food,” laughed Sulad, who said the table flowers come from Detroit’s Eastern Market and even the gardens of other volunteers.

Last year, they scrambled as the white tablecloths arrived only 10 minutes before the start of the brunch.

“Whenever there’s a problem like that, we’re there to make sure it all runs smoothly,” said Chapin.

On the day of the brunch, they also check in the guests who have pre-registered for the event.

“And if they like, we hand them mimosas as they enter. We want to make it a lovely event on the lake,” she said. 

-- Reservations are required for the Private Eyes brunch at the EyesOn Design show. Tickets are $95 a person, $35 for children under 10. The brunch includes the $35 admission to the car show. Visit or call (313) 824-4710 for more info.

  • Darlene Sulad & Ellen Chapin