Hillsborough Head Start luncheon
A 10-letter word for syndicated crossword puzzle creator? Merl Reagle. His wife, Marie Haley, offered the puzzler's services to the Hillsborough Head Start Community Foundation on Oct. 28.
"She happened to overhear committee members lamenting the lack of a luncheon speaker,'' said foundation president and big fan Jan Platt. Reagle spoke and happily autographed his puzzle books, including the most recent one that he dedicated to the late musician Joe Stagi.
Also during lunch at the University Club, wine merchant Mike Kwasin received the Sam Gibbons Corporate Award. Paul Carastro and Enrique Woodroffe earned Ted Corwin Community Champion Awards. Event chairwoman LaNita Brown expects to net $30,000.
Wine, Women & Shoes
The local version of national fundraiser Wine, Women & Shoes belongs to the Children's Dream Fund to fulfill hopes of children with life-threatening illnesses. Chairwoman Joana Urie tweaked a Girls Night Out formula Oct. 27 with a lively fashion show, auction and Bern's dessert nook hosted by chef Kim Yelvington in the Straz Center's Morsani Lobby. Shoes and boots, clothing and accessory vendors, plus a dozen California winemakers enticed 300 women to buy and imbibe. Noted in the well-shod crowd: Sheryl Gibson in red croc peace sign Donald Pliner boots.
Rather than a silent auction, guests could buy $50 chances to win gift certificates, jewelry, dresses, design services, furniture and lots of shoes valued at a whopping $19,000. Palm Harbor dermatologist Dr. Amy Ross shrieked when Urie called her name.
Two winemaker dinners on Oct. 28 added to proceeds: Mike and Elena Azzarelli hosted in Avila with Bistro Blu chef Tina Hurless, while Carrie and Lance Jones opened the old Anheuser-Busch estate on Pass-a-Grille Beach with Chef Debra Murray of Banyan Tree Catering.
Rotary's Groovy Gala
Hippies and disco divas partied at the Groovy Gala, a joint (just kidding!) effort of Interbay Rotary president Doug Smaus and Downtown Tampa Rotary president Jay Lippy and members at MainSail Suites on Oct. 22. Co-chairs Laura Webb (Interbay) and Malcolm Root (Downtown) primed 300 guests with wine, martinis, restaurant bites and cigars. Auctioneer Jack Harris helped the gala net $40,000 to support Gift of Life, a Rotarian project providing free heart surgery to children from around the world, with some funds going to a Rotary clinic in Jamaica.
Extra groovy: Ybor Rotary member Heidi Hess surprised five medical professionals with the club's highest honor, naming them Paul Harris Fellows for their service.
Starting Right, Now benefits
Last week was a happy blur for Vicki and Joel Sokolik, who founded Starting Right, Now in their Tampa Palms kitchen. The nonprofit group has 40 mentors acting as "pseudo parents" for 60 homeless teens, "doing what they would for their own children," Vicki said, such as helping them find apartments and jobs, overseeing schoolwork and budgeting. They also help 32 homeless families.
On Oct. 27, the Sokoliks hosted a double-header, with 300 guests attending a luncheon at TPepin's Hospitality Centre to hear Ashley Rhodes Courter recount her time in 14 foster homes before age 12. A few hours later, the couple greeted 150 supporters at a cocktail casino party at the Ferguson Law Center. The action that night centered on a "Sit & Go" minitournament with eight guys taking on millionaire World Series of Poker winner John Racener. Rich Hornstrom vowed to win … and did, all $300,000 prize chips.
The Sokolik's lucky week continued when the Tampa Bay Lightning Foundation named Vicki a Community Hero on Saturday, adding a $50,000 grant to the $80,000 raised at the luncheon and cocktail party.