FARA Energy Ball
Familiar faces - researchers, scientists, hospitality honchos and 20 Friedreich's Ataxia "warriors" inched closer to a cure for the progressive neurodegenerative disease as the FARA Energy Ball advanced the FA Research Alliance and USF Ataxia Research Center by $1.75 million Saturday, thanks to some bodacious auction bids and $600,000 texted-donations.
The Rocky theme song thundered across Knock Out FA co-chaired again this year by Janell and Tampa Bay Lightning CEO Steve Griggs. "FARA is family and you really fight when it's family," he said, following emcee Wendy Ryan, WFTS-Ch. 28 anchor, up to a boxing ring podium. Hot pink, turquoise and orange boxing glove centerpieces brightened the Marriott Waterside ballroom.
"Don't say annual," said Suzanne Avery, hosting the ninth gala with husband Paul, CEO of World of Beer franchising, ever hopeful this will be the last one as clinical trials achieve significant results. Daughters Alison and Laurel thanked the 650 guests "who will help them walk again."
Chatting in a video, then on stage, FA fighters Sam Bridgman, 26, and Gavin Lambert, 12, won the crowd. "My smile still works," Sam told the sixth-grader. "My laugh still works."
And with that, party band Blonde Ambition rocked the room.
Beer & Bowties
Wear a bow tie, get a free beer and help us break the stigma of suicide, that's what we want, said Beer & Bowties hosts Brent Kraus and Kim Randall who founded the annual benefit for the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay after both tragically lost a loved one. The beer-guzzling crowd learned sobering statistics while raising $20,000 and sampling bites from local restaurants, including Roux, Taziki's, Burger Monger and District Tavern, on a rainy Aug. 25 at the Cuban Club.
"If you hear anything I say tonight, hear 211," said Crisis Center CEO Clara Reynolds shouting the emergency phone number for interventional and emotional support across the lively ballroom. "Out of 250 calls they get a day, 10 are suicidal."
Happy Birthday, Vince
Friends and family enjoyed a "Holy Moley Vince Naimoli" trivia game and the winners' prizes were baseballs signed by Tampa Bay Rays players, past and present. A huge fan club gathered to celebrate the 80th birthday of the original team owner, well known for his philanthropy, including millions to the University of South Florida and the University of Tampa athletic programs, neither of which he attended, by the way.
His wife Lenda Naimoli and his sister-in-law, Glenda Young, dressed identically from head-to-toe as always, entertained 200 guests at Saturday's luncheon with champagne, music and a giant birthday cake at Angels Senior Living at the Lodges in Lutz.