Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Abilities Foundation celebrates 25th anniversary at military museum

Dan Karikas pours for Roslyn Puderbaugh at the Abilities Foundation’s 25th benefit Wine Tasting and silent auction on Saturday.

JAMES BRANAMAN | Special to the Times

Dan Karikas pours for Roslyn Puderbaugh at the Abilities Foundation’s 25th benefit Wine Tasting and silent auction on Saturday.


More than 700 patrons swept into the Armed Forces Military Museum to eat, drink and raise money for wounded veterans as the Abilities Wine Tasting and silent auction celebrated its 25th anniversary during Memorial Day weekend.

Frank DeLucia, the charity's president and chief executive officer, has attended every one of the events, from the first iteration, under a tent at the ICOT Center in Clearwater, to a hangar at St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, to Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, to the museum in Largo, where it moved in 2012.

Supporters could sample various vintages and mouth-watering morsels from some of the Tampa Bay area's top restaurants. As hundreds of people packed into exhibition spaces, they could not help but be moved by the reminders of military service throughout the ages.

The occasion also was bittersweet for those who remember Sharon O'Gradney-Krkljus. The muse of St. Petersburg's O'Bistro restaurant was a stalwart at Abilities fundraisers and gave even more to the community before her death in January.

"It was Sharon who introduced the concept of a VIP private reception at the Abilities Wine Tasting at Tropicana Field," De Lucia said. "The pairing of gourmet restaurants with premium wine purveyors prior to the Grand Tasting attracted thousands of patrons each year and set the gold standard for premier wine events. She also hosted countless foundation meetings, wine dinners and tributes at O'Bistro and promoted and generously supported our annual wine tasting for each of the past 20 years. We were honored that Sharon directed memorial gifts to the foundation."

Lee Neal of Pic Pac Liquors in St. Petersburg, the charity's longest-standing retail supporter, greeted VIP guests at the museum's entrance and later poured wine for guests.

"This event would not have become Florida's longest-running and most prosperous three-hour wine and food tasting," De Lucia said, "without the magnificent support of wine purveyors like Southern Wine & Spirits and Zonin USA and restaurateurs like Tom Pritchard, Frank Chivas, Sharon O'Gradney, and Steve Westphal.''

This year's event netted an estimated $75,000, he said, with overall proceeds over the quarter century amounting to nearly $3.7 million.


Mark Sforzini premiered a new work, and musical artists from the St. Petersburg Opera performed at "Bella Voce," the annual gala to support the company. The dinner event at the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront raised around $60,000, according to chief financial officer Nancy Preis.

Sforzini, who is the opera's artistic director and executive director, titled his work "T's" for Barbara. The piece was commissioned by Barbara B. Smith and includes musical references to "tango" and "tsunami," for example. In addition to the maestro, performers were Anthony Carlson, Aaaron Hilsinger, Fred Gratta and Constantine Grame.

Para Norma took some liberties with Vincenzo Bellini's Norma, which opens at the Palladium on June 6, and guests heard the quartet Operatini.

Marilyn Ward led the event committee, which included Dedee Aleccia, Susan Hellman, Susan Luehrs, Gloria Matyszyk, Preis, Maggie Prittie, Michael Roberts, Krista Whipple, Cherie Willard and Donna Woolums.


Members of the Margaret Acheson Stuart Society raised $383,000 for the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, during the past volunteer year, with retiring president Margaret Amley presenting a check for that amount to museum to director Kent Lydecker at the organization's final meeting of the season.

Money was designated for educational programs, including a partnership with the Pinellas County schools; for major exhibitions; for improving projection and sound systems in the museum's Marly Room; and for acquiring books and journals for the library.

The volunteer support group is named for museum founder Margaret Acheson Stuart and was launched three years before the museum opened to the public in 1965.

Abilities Foundation celebrates 25th anniversary at military museum 05/28/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 28, 2014 1:40pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rick Baker debuts new campaign ad to woo younger voters


    Former mayor Rick Baker's campaign unveiled a reboot of sorts Tuesday with the debut of a new TV ad.

    Delores Green and mayoral candidate Rick Baker smile as they look at a selfie that Green took at a food truck food giveaway at Rick Baker's disaster assistance registration center on Central Ave. in St. Petersburg on Sept. 15.
  2. Editorial: DOT listens, adjusts on I-275 plans in Tampa


    Florida continues to improve its plan for modernizing the interstate system in Tampa Bay. The Florida Department of Transportation has unveiled four new options for rebuilding I-275 near downtown Tampa, and some of them would ditch previous plans for toll lanes downtown while keeping express lanes for faster, …

    State officials are re-evaluating parts of I-4 and I-275 in Tampa as part of a supplemental environmental impact study, or SEIS. 
  3. College basketball scandal dips into Tampa Bay


    Tuesday's national college basketball scandal has recruiting ties to Tampa Bay.

    In this March 15, 2012, file photo, San Diego State assistant coach Tony Bland, left, talks during NCAA college basketball practice in Columbus, Ohio. Bland was identified in court papers, and is among 10 people facing federal charges in Manhattan federal court, Tuesday in a wide probe of fraud and corruption in the NCAA, authorities said. [AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File]
  4. Datz to open in St. Petersburg, join the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art

    Food & Dining

    Now Datz news.

    Get it? Tuesday, Datz, the longtime line-out-the-door, oft-Instagrammed and -Yelped Tampa stalwart known for shock-and-awe sandwiches and oh-so-much bacon, announced it is coming to St. Petersburg.

    Lunch guest eat at Datz Deli at 2616 South MacDill Ave. in Tampa. Times files.
  5. Republican leader McConnell pulls the plug on latest Obamacare repeal effort

    WASHINGTON --- Sen. Mitch McConnell on Tuesday officially pulled the plug on the latest plan to repeal the health care law, telling senators they will not vote on the measure and effectively admitting defeat in the last-gasp drive to fulfill a core promise of President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. listens during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017, after the Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as education secretary. DeVos was approved by the narrowest of margins, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-50 tie in a historic vote. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) DCSA119