Taste the Best of Tampa Bay
The Brunchery, the Columbia restaurant and Sally O'Neal's Pizza have dished out their specialities to Straz Center performing arts fans at the Best of Tampa Bay since the benefit began 28 years ago. They eagerly returned April 20, along with 10-year-plus participants Miguel's Mexican Cafe, Oystercatchers, Schakolad Chocolate Factory, Splitsville and T.C. Choy's Asian Bistro. Newbies including Anise Global Gastrobar and Piquant Epicure & Cuisine made it a 40-restaurant tasting. The 1,500 guests also scarfed up appetite-enhancing entertainment by Daniel Marshall, Beth McKee, Lisa Casalino, Southern Train and the Vodkanauts as event chairwoman Michelle Dy and the Producers raised a yummy $75,000.
Handbags & Happy Hour
Make-a-Wish Foundation turned to Jennifer Carlstedt to tap her leadership skills (Junior League of Tampa president 2009-10) to help collect 100 gently used, high-end purses and new designer bags to auction at Handbags & Happy Hour on May 7 at the Centre Club. Donations came from Zoey Bloom, Tory Burch, Kate Spade, Kate McKenzie Clothiers, the Pink Petticoat, Jax-ta-pose, KT Janes, Crème de la Crème and now-closed Saks Fifth Avenue, among others, luring nearly 300 women and raising $50,000. That's enough for the Suncoast region to fund seven wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses.
DJ Eric Hardy, father of a Wish kid, entertained and giggly "Wish" girls pulled raffle prizes near a screen flashing their wishes. Hardy's son ("Doing great now," he said) was 16 when he wished for a room makeover. Said sponsor Patricia Douglas, "It's hard not to fall in love with the kids and the concept."
Junior League of Tampa annual dinner
President Stephanie Wiendl passed the gavel to Lee Lowry after celebrating a fulfilling year at the helm of the Junior League of Tampa. She recognized 151 new members, the largest class ever, and oversaw seven year-end awards at the annual dinner May 2 at the Renaissance Hotel at International Plaza. Honorees included Tena Vozenilek, Outstanding Provisional; Jackie Medina, Active of the Year; and Denise Schultz, Inspiring Leader.
The Sustainer of the Year, honored for significant service after age 40, is Harrison Giddens, a member since 1947. Paula Cardoso earned the Martha Ferman Spirit Award for sharing the attributes of the late, beloved member. Myrna Haag earned the inaugural Community Partner of the Year award for helping the league create its Kids in the Kitchen curriculum.
United Way's Art of Giving
Fans of Giuliana and Bill Rancic thronged to the United Way Suncoast's ninth annual Art of Giving dinner, bursting to hear E! News anchor Giuliana and entrepreneur Bill share their real-life fairy tale, as Donald Trump's right-hand man on the first season of The Apprentice to becoming an expert fashionista. The 700 guests found the power couple warm and accessible as they touched on infertility, producing their reality show, raising son Duke, and other topics with emcees Gayle Sierens and Rod Carter, both of WFLA-Ch. 8.
Dubbed "Caring with Style," the May 9 benefit at A La Carte Event Pavilion began with fashion displays from Stein Mart, hair styling by Darren Pena and makeup from Neiman Marcus Cosmetics. Men congregated on the terrace over craft beers, cigars and haberdashery samples. Prior to dinner, the Rancics advised Operation Graduate students to "reverse engineer" and envision where they want to be at 40. All evening, they reminded the crowd they were there to help fund United Way's Summer Care, which provides 6,000 children and parents with enriching child care and financial education.