How amazing would it be to have Emeril Lagasse prepare a meal for you? He did just that for patrons at "An Evening with Emeril and Friends," a benefit held in the Club at Treasure Island for All Children's Hospital. From rabbit and andouille strudel to duck prosciutto to praline bread pudding, the four-course dinner and its wine pairings were unmitigated treats for those who indulged. Mark and Marianne Mahaffey's winning auction bid means that the chef will bring his team of culinary experts back to town to prepare a private meal for eight. Enthusiastic club owner Bill Edwards, already a big supporter of the hospital, matched the amount, bringing the evening's fundraising total to nearly $300,000. Lagasse is a familiar face in the Tampa Bay area, where he often makes appearances on local television shopping network HSN.
Patrons of St. Petersburg's children's museum continue to celebrate Great Explorations' 25th anniversary; the annual "Great Extravaganza" benefit aboard the StarLite Majesty dining yacht drew a capacity crowd of nearly 300 guests, who boarded the ship from the Renaissance Vinoy Marina.
The evening raised about $50,000 for the museum and honored founders Shawn Ulrich, Carol Holland and Mary Joan Mann. Entertainment included a three-hour bay cruise, dinner, an auction and a fireworks display.
Additional supporters included Great Explorations chief executive Lisa Negrini, development director Daryl DeBerry, Scott Wagman and Beth Houghton, Bill and Jeanne Heller, Mary Wyatt Allen, Janet Raymond, Phil and Michele Farley, Mary Lee Hanley, Dan and Silvia Leeper, Gray and Georgia Mattern, Blake Kennedy, Lucas and Tara Fleming, Chloe Firebaugh and Scott and Lisa Johni.
A little early, perhaps, but appropriately the ballroom in the St. Petersburg Yacht Club looked ready for the holidays. The occasion was a dinner to celebrate the Christmas Toy Shop's 90th anniversary.
The charity, an all-volunteer organization, gives new and refurbished toys to needy children in south Pinellas County each year. Speakers noted that the nonprofit donated more than 700 bicycles and tricycles and supplied toys to more than 2,400 children last year.
Ardith Rutland, who led the Christmas Toy Shop for half a century, chaired the dinner committee; her granddaughter Melissa Rutland and Shirley O'Sullivan were co-chairs. Additional support came from Marion Ballard, Mary Wyatt Allen, Nancy Rutland, Mary Evertz, Ardith Richards, Karen Hale, Judy Stanton, Janet Raymond, Anne Long, Rebecca Stewart, Iris Salzer, Cindy Weatherby, Roseanna Costa, Ann Vickstrom, Gail Falkingham, Jim Belcher, Deborah Belcher and Betty Jean Miller.