If you read my colleague Lane DeGregory's story in the Tampa Bay Times on Mother's Day about Justice, the 15-year-old who fought to find an adoptive family for herself and her three younger brothers, Jeremy, Max and Randy, you likely had an emotional response.
You surely would have if you heard Justice's speech at the annual "Celebrate Me Home" gala for the Heart Gallery of Pinellas and Pasco, where she and her brothers and their adoptive parents, Lesley and Danny McGuill, were present as a family. The adoption took place in November, after the four siblings had been featured in a Heart Gallery video.
The dinner, held inside Tropicana Field, was donated by Centerplate at the Trop. Bay News 9 anchor Al Ruechel and Tampa Bay Rays special adviser Dick Crippen were masters of ceremonies and auctioneers, and the crowd also heard presentations from Heart Gallery executive director Tiffany Faykus, Centerplate regional vice president Bill Tracy, and Zackary Gibson, director of the state office of adoption and child protection.
Dr. Jane Nunnelly was chairwoman of the event committee, which included Amelia Bayne, Annica Keeler, Kerry Kriseman, Tracey Locke, Kathy Mandula, April Putzulu, Kathy Wilder, Ashley Capps, Faykus, Connie Going and Carol Hughes.
From the multitude of business showcases that lined the hallways to the 600 guests who attended, the 15th annual "Women of Vision" event was a high-energy production at every level, filling most of the public spaces of the Hilton St. Petersburg Carillon Park.
Organized by the Women's Leadership Council of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, the luncheon recognized women who are community leaders.
The keynote speaker, Dr. Dara Richardson-Heron, chief executive of the YWCA USA, focused on success stories beyond life's inevitable struggles. A month after her marriage 17 years ago, she told her audience, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. "Sometimes," she said, "when life throws you curve balls, you have to put on your big-girl pants and learn to catch them." And she urged women to learn to say "no" to more commitments than they can effectively manage.
Iconic Women of St. Petersburg awards went to Melanie Bevan of the St. Petersburg Police Department, Business Woman of the Year (more than 500 employees); Brooke Boyd of the Hype Group, Business Woman of the Year (fewer than 50 employees); Dawna Stone, Healthy You Ventures, Entrepreneur of the Year; Tara Carroll, Woman to Watch; Kimberly Rodgers, Community Law Program, Inspire! Woman of the Year; Lenice Emanuel, YWCA Tampa Bay, Nonprofit Woman of the Year; and Torrie Jasuwan, founder of BabyCycle diaper bank, Community Service Woman of the Year.
Additional finalists were Sharon Hayes, Edward White Hospital; Karen Reich, Bon Secours St. Petersburg Health System; Cathy Swanson, Freedom Bank of America; Tina Tenret, ProVise Management Group; Lauren Davenport, Symphoni; Dr. Stacey Robinson, Robinson Concierge Medicine; Brittany Maxey, Maxey Law Offices; Melissa Pine, Women's Tennis Association; Karen Mertes, Fulfill Your Destiny; Bonnie Stein, fitness adviser and Holocaust survivors' daughter; Pamela Mesmer, Brookwood Florida; Linda Osmundson, Community Action Stops Abuse (CASA); Olga Bof, Keep St. Petersburg Local; and Irene Weiss, Florida Holocaust Museum.
Broadcaster Lisette Campos was mistress of ceremonies for the program, which included presentations from chamber board of directors chairman Marcus Greene and chamber president and chief executive officer Chris Steinocher. Jo-An Thomas and Laura Fage were co-chairwomen of the event.
California Chrome won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, and the St. Anthony's Hospital Foundation was a winner at its annual Derby-themed gala, which raised more than $80,000 for the St. Anthony's Memory Disorders Center.
Big hats and bright colors were the order of the day at the University of South Florida's student center, with mistress of ceremonies Gayle Guyardo wearing a portrait headpiece and pearls.
Table hosts included Worth and Betsy Blackwell, Sara Engelskirger, Phil and Stephanie Graham, Terry and Ginny McCarthy, Mike and Elaine Mikurak, Gary and Cheryl Sanchez, Royal and Alice Travis, Ed Tutun, Diamonds Direct and TJM Properties.
Guests included St. Anthony's president Bill Ulbricht and his wife, Ann; foundation board chairwoman Angela Rouson; Dr. James McClintic; Dr. Veronica Clement and Joel Kevin Thompson; Dr. Ali and Kim Saberi; Drs. Claudia and Richard Bundschu; Drs. Eric and Beth Diner; Sister Mary McNally; Darryl LeClair; Larry Fasan; Bill Harvard; and auxiliary members Joan Jaicks, Pat Howells, Mary Hilton Cross and June Wedding.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: Dr. Dara Richardson-Heron was the keynote speaker for the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon presented by the Women's Leadership Council on May 14.