Newsies hawking the Chicago Tribune, fedora-topped gangsters, deep dish pizza and hot dogs served on Cubs napkins —all the Windy City passions flavored the Starlight Gala, "An Evening in Chicago" benefit for the Florida Hospital Foundation. But Sunday's big score came when Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Chicago blasted onto the Marriott Waterside stage, thrilling the nearly 900 guests with a private concert composed of 50 years of hit singles. Getting to rock a drum solo with them on "Feelin' Stronger Every Day" was a bucket list dream come true for Florida Hospital Tampa chief of staff, cardiologist Mitch O'Hara, the first guest to do so, they said.
In the red-lit ballroom dotted with red roses and iconic Chicago scenes, emcees Jamison Uhler and Lisette Campos of WFTS- Ch. 28 helped auction sporting event and shopping spree trips. All the sudden, Uhler recognized the voice vying for the Tuscany cooking experience belonged to his wife Amber. Her winning bid: $15,000; the expression on his face: priceless; gala results: $1.275 million for inpatient and emergency room pediatric care at five Tampa Bay area hospitals.
Lend A Hand Luncheon
Raised in squalor then abandoned by alcoholic parents, Skye now awaits admission to med school. Brooklyn spoke of foster care demons and deplorable living conditions before Starting Right, Now brought mentor Michelle Shimberg into her life. Jarian said without Vicki Sokolik's organization, he would never have pursued a hospitality degree at FIU and internship at Ulele. And they are just three of 200 teens getting help with housing, tutoring, jobs, scholarships and medical and dental care.
"These kids were amazing before the program, but without Starting Right, Now's intervention, they wouldn't have made it," said board chairman Matt Silverman, president of the Tampa Bay Rays.
"Failure is not an option," said emcee WFLA-Ch. 8 anchor Stacie Schaible as the 600 guests grabbed tissues and donation envelopes at the annual Lend A Hand luncheon Oct. 13 at Higgins Hall. Honorees included Hillsborough County commissioner Sandra Murman who received the Soul Award and Lotus Award recipients Richard Gonzmart and Elizabeth Fowler whose Triad Foundation added $75,000 to bring event proceeds to nearly $300,000.
Ryan Nece Foundation's Power Plate Luncheon
Former NFL player Ryan Nece formed his foundation 10 years ago to fund various Power of Giving community efforts. Gradually, the mission evolved into a two-year student leadership development program turning teens into capable and compassionate citizens, like Power Plate luncheon speakers Richard Gonzmart and Judge Catherine McEwen.
The foundation taps a broad range of social issues, "creating an invaluable ripple effect," said U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, noting several students traveled to Flint, Michigan to help residents dealing with the lead-contaminated water crisis. "Our staff and board members roll up their sleeves" to model public service and accountability, said Nece, proud new father of 6-week old son Elijah. The Oct. 14 luncheon at the Ferguson Law Center raised more than $13,000.