Starting Right, Now
"It's overwhelming to know all these Lauras are in the room," said Maurice Mazyck, surveying the crowd gathered to hear New York author Laura Schroff at Starting Right, Now's annual Lend A Hand luncheon Oct. 11. To Mazyck, "Laura" is a synonym for the mentors and supporters, starting with founders Vicki and Joel Sokolik, now working with more than 100 homeless teens desperate for adult help finding housing, scholarships and jobs.
All 425 guests received Schroff's bestseller, An Invisible Thread, recounting how she met Mazyck as he begged for spare change on a street corner 26 years ago. He was 11 but had already lived in 20 welfare hotels with drug-addicted relatives. She walked by but returned — drawn by an invisible thread of destiny — and offered lunch at McDonald's. That started the relationship that changed both of their lives, said Mazyck, and is why today he is a college grad, homeowner and married father of seven.
Two students spoke of their turnarounds, powerful examples of "works in progress," said Vicki, who also announced a $200,000 Bank of America neighborhood builders grant. Lunch and service at TPepin's Hospitality Centre were donated by the Columbia Restaurant, and Elizabeth and Troy Fowler pledged a $50,000 match, enabling net proceeds of $130,000.
LifePath Hospice's Island Night
Island Night at Jackson's Bistro on Harbour Island scored a full house for LifePath Hospice on Sunday, with 550 supporters playing poker and blackjack, sipping Manhattans and cucumber martinis, and reveling in the waterfront sunset. Chairman Rick Lentz aced the casino crowd, accompanied by "feathered" showgirls and a sexy "Marilyn Monroe" as a Rat Pack trio jived on the stage. And just like in Vegas, guests enjoyed buffet overload, featuring a boatload of sushi, oysters, mussels and paella, and for dessert, gelato and "dice" petit fours. The winning night raised $135,000 and will fund 111 Camp Circle of Love grants.
YMKG King's Dinner
Gasparilla kings have feted each other for a century, but never more royally than King David of the House of Straz hosting past kings and queens and pirate friends to an evening with all the elegance of a state dinner last Saturday. Bravos resounded from 260 guests, including 23 of the 38 living kings, from the champagne greeting to the venison dinner set at gilded tables on a tiered floor built over the seats of Ferguson Hall at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts.
Before the first course of New York chef Ken Arnone's homage-to-Wisconsin menu arrived, 25 crystal chandeliers descended dramatically from the ceiling — intact, unlike the Phantom of the Opera — illuminating the scene for a thrilling performance by mezzo-soprano superstar Denyce Graves of the Metropolitan Opera, where King Straz is a dedicated board member.
The finale: A stupendous fireworks display bursting from a barge on the river, accompanied by the Ward Cook Orchestra.
Toasting banker David Straz Jr., who is honorary consul general to the Republic of Liberia, got krewe captain James Von Thron rethinking the tradition of replacing the king every year. "Based on this evening," he said, "we may have found the real thing."
H.B. Plant Museum Society & Chiselers biannual fashion show
Lunch around the runway put guests' gaze at shoe level, making Neiman Marcus' insanely high needle stilettos the hot topic when H.B. Plant Museum Society and the Chiselers co-hosted their sixth bi-annual fashion show. The stunning vertiginous footwear will fund historic preservation at the venerable University of Tampa when the two groups split the proceeds. Nearly 600 fashion philanthropists filled the Hyatt Regency Tampa ballroom Monday, as stylish as the designers' fall collections seen on the models.