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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ball Time

For MT
You've got to be quick to catch the ball -- and that goes for rugby balls as well as black-tie balls held by rugby players.

The Marriott Grand Hotel on Saturday is to be filled by about 300 people who were quick enough to snap up the 3,300-ruble tickets for the Moscow Dragons Rugby Club's Valentine Ball. All profits from the sold-out event go to charity.

It is the fourth consecutive year that the Dragons have raised money for Maria's Children, an arts rehabilitation center for Russian orphans.

The half-expat, half-Russian rugby club boasts about 200 members and plays around Russia and all over Europe. If the tuxedoed ball-goers sport fresh bruises, it is because the Dragons face the St. Petersburg White Knights in a pre-festivities friendly match over the weekend, which Dragons vice president Tim Huxtable said should promote a sociable ball environment.

The ball's dinner is to start with an appetizer of shredded smoked salmon savarin with asparagus, horseradish and wasabi mustard, followed by beef fillet and vegetable pakoras with curry emulsion and mashed potatoes with carrot. For dessert, a blackberry and apple crumble with Anglaise sauce and raspberry jelly is on the menu.

Local band Blast is the main musical attraction, but a raffle with prizes ranging from free dinners to a trip to Sochi is sure to help keep the giving spirit going after the pain from the match sets in. Also featured will be a cartoonist, a strength-hammer attraction and flamenco dancers.

Last year, the ball raised $15,000 for Maria's Children.

Charity balls are not the only way the Dragons go about donating money. Recently, both the men's and women's rugby teams created a 10-year anniversary calendar featuring the players in photos Huxtable said were "nothing lewd, but a tiny bit risque." The black-and-white calendars sell for 550 rubles each.

Maria Yeliseyeva started Maria's Children, the first orphans' charity in Moscow, in 1993 after she visited Boarding School No. 103 with several other volunteers.

The charity works in conjunction with city-owned boarding schools for orphans around Moscow. It relies not only on donations, but also on the sale of the artworks created by the 200 to 300 orphans in the program, to whom it teaches painting, clay modeling and other art forms, said Natalya Asanova, who works at the Maria's Children center.