Occupy the Social Scene
Downtown demonstrators raise our social consciousness, but it's activist volunteers and nonprofit staffers on the scene who improve the lives of Hillsborough's 99-percenters. The goals are not dissimilar, but rather than stage street protests, these folks stage charity events to open hearts and wallets. And like the Occupy movement, they've learned, the more entertaining, the more attention to the cause.
To all the doers and donors, goers and givers, I raise my glass in praise of some standouts of 2011.
Most decadent design
Guests climbed 10 steep steps to enter the DeBartolo Family Foundation's eighth All Star Charity Gala. The view from the top stunned — three tiers of lavishly set tables, white-jacketed waiters, classic movies rolling across two huge screens. Event planner Tiffani Packer's vintage Hotel Hollywood scene made A La Carte Event Pavilion unrecognizable. Eddie and Candy DeBartolo and daughters Lisa and Nikki hosted a guest mashup of football greats and entertainers (Jerry Rice and Paul Anka!), as well as random celeb chums who vaulted the super hosts to the top of my A-list.
It was "s'wonderful, s'marvelous" to hear Denise Moore's sultry tunes, backed by the Helios Swingtet at H.B. Plant Museum's annual Great Gatsby Party at the University of Tampa. She would have been as much a hit 100 years ago, when it was the Tampa Bay Hotel, as she was that October evening in Fletcher Lounge.
Credit fans of top 40 band Lifehouse for spiking the first Back to Back Ball head count up to 700 for the Spine Foundation. And at the 18th annual Magnolia Ball, flashing back to the '80s with Foreigner, certainly boosted Moffitt Cancer Center's bottom line. Looking forward to next year's Moffitt gala with Cheap Trick.
No one beats the $3 million that Moffitt CEO Bill Dalton collected this year at Magnolia. But look how the FARA Energy Ball exploded, zapping $1 million for the Friedreich's Ataxia Research Alliance in only its third year. Gala founders Suzanne and Paul Avery — he's the former CEO of OSI Restaurants—tapped their meaty resources to draw 800 guests eager to fund a cure.
Then there was Greg Lenners, the Shops at Wiregrass general manager who singlehandedly raised $88,000 to be named Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Man of the Year.
Five stars go to Hyatt Regency Tampa chef Kimo Akana who followed his mother's Hawaiian recipes for Tampa General Hospital Foundation's gala "trip" to the South Pacific. Spam musubi, ahi poke, suckling pig, coconut curries and banana leaf beef bundles made the buffet authentic.
Oxtail and octopus were weirdly wonderful, I heard, at Bern's Steak House and SideBern's Winefest. I also say "bravo" to Bern's black truffle short-rib meatballs and bacon brownies at Tampa Theatre's La Dolce Vino tasting.
Just too many trend-trackers to choose from at CITY: Fashion + Art + Culture in October, and Pavilion XXVI a month later, both stylish benefits for Tampa Museum of Art. Let's just say Pavilion co-chair Allison Casper Adams stood out munching her McDonald's cheeseburger in a metallic beaded Naeem Khan halter-top gown.
What a cool idea to spruce up the abandoned Kress Building downtown for the Gasparilla Film Festival wrap party. And dining in Pirate Cove gave Eye Ball guests a thrilling eyeful of Raymond James Stadium, hosted by the Lions Eye Institute for Transplant and Research Foundation.
Tampa Bay Lightning fans know to go to Glitz & Sticks for face time with hockey players who never say no. At the Boys & Girls Clubs luncheon held during spring training, 100 New York Yankee fans paid $1,500 for 20 minutes of autograph time.
As you can see, 2011 overwhelmed with enjoyable opportunities to support the community. I could go on and on, and I hope to do just that in the new year to come.
Amy Scherzer, pictured here with NFL legend Jerry Rice at the DeBartolo Family Foundation All Star Charity Gala, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3332.