Chris Evert recognized Dottie Berger MacKinnon before she met her.
As the former tennis champion waited at the Westin Harbor Island on Monday morning, Evert spotted MacKinnon from across the lobby. MacKinnon stood out in a soft pink, Carlisle-designed business suit. But something more drew Evert's focus.
"She exuded a light, an aura that was mesmerizing," Evert said. "She just had this wonderful, caring, restful look.
"That's what a giver looks like."
It's a look this community has come to admire and love. MacKinnon joked that it's a look her closest friends have come to dread, always wondering, "What's it going to cost me today?"
Don't believe that. MacKinnon's friends, inspired by her love for the community's neediest children, gladly give.
It's passion, not pressure, that prompts them to donate to A Kid's Place, the center she founded as a temporary residence for children rescued from abusive homes.
Evert, 56, arrived as spokeswoman for Hood Simply Smart milk, which awarded MacKinnon $7,500 as one of three national winners of its "Make a Difference, Taste a Difference" program.
By day's end, however, she would leave with a deeper understanding of how MacKinnon's aura envelops everyone she touches.
The check presentation came during a luncheon at the Glazer Children's Museum honoring A Kid's Place donors, but the donors really came to honor Dottie, who is battling cancer.
WFTS-Ch. 28 anchor Sarina Fazan served as the emcee and wasted little time in sharing why MacKinnon means so much to her.
Fazan had become an advocate for the teenaged survivor of a highly publicized 2008 rape outside the Bloomingdale Regional Library. She told MacKinnon how she was working with elected officials to help get the young woman's health care extended.
Before she knew it, Fazan said, MacKinnon was organizing a fundraiser.
"I asked her, 'Why did you do it?,' " said Fazan, her voice breaking with emotion. "She told me she was just a helpless girl who needed help, and, it was important to you.
"That's when I realized what type of person Dottie is. She always puts someone before herself."
MacKinnon's battle with cancer underscores her selflessness. She has outlived doctor's predictions, but should we be surprised?
She has always overcome obstacles to help others. Why would she stop now?
Ever grateful, MacKinnon, 69, deflected such praise. She credited her husband, Sandy MacKinnon, and her family. She also saluted the donors, including DeDe Grundel, a behind-the-scenes force in the development of A Kid's Place.
After the lunch, Evert and MacKinnon toured the facility in Brandon, marveling at the children's happy faces and unbounded joy.
One ran up to hug "Miss Dottie." Another took an immediate liking to Evert, giving her a hand-drawn picture.
"I've been around a lot of great causes, but to actually see the facility and see the kids … impressed isn't the right word," Evert said. "It's very inspiring. I just wish there were more Dotties out there."
With that, Evert became the newest convert.
Welcome to the Church of Dottie, Ms. Evert. We're all members.
That's all I'm saying.