A sellout crowd raised more than $300,000 for scholarships and other services provided by the Beth Dillinger Foundation during the annual "Value Me: Prom Magic" luncheon and fashion show at the Hilton St. Petersburg Carillon Park.
The sixth annual event featured Dick Crippen as master of ceremonies and Cat Coats as fashion show moderator.
Seven participants from the PACE Center for Girls modeled fashions from Ambria's Gallery of Wearable Art in St. Petersburg; community women on the runway included Margaret Word Burnside, Veronica Cintron, Jen Holloway, Kamilah Perry, Wendy Ramirez, Laura Snell and Ann Sherman-White.
Pinellas-Pasco Public Defender Bob Dillinger and his wife, Kay, started the foundation in memory of their daughter, Beth.
Bob McIntyre, former chairman of the Pinellas Education Foundation, reported that 43 Beth Dillinger Foundation scholarships were awarded this year through the Pinellas Education Foundation Doorways program.
The Dillingers served on the event's host committee, which also included Kristi Cheatham, Cat Coats and retired Pinellas County Sheriff Jim Coats, Jay Coats, Joanna Garcia, Bobbie Shay Lee, Joanne and Bob McIntyre, Sarah Michaud, Carla Mattern and Wendy Ramirez.
In addition to providing scholarships, the foundation supports Beth's Closet and the Hope Chest, a donation system that offers clothing and other necessities to needy children at the public defender's office in Clearwater, Dade City and New Port Richey.
Sartorial selections at the Kentucky Derby often are spectacular, but Churchill Downs had competition in St. Petersburg as 250 members and guests of the St. Petersburg Chapter of the Links dressed in their finest for a Derby Day fundraiser at the Rutland-Farley estate, home of Phil and Michele Farley.
Food offerings included traditional Hot Browns and derby pie; along with mint juleps, the bar served "Linktinis," a specialty beverage reflecting the organization's colors, green and white.
And there was a Millionaire's Row cigar bar setup, reports Joy Wallace, who was in charge of recruiting corporate sponsors. Participants had play money with which to place their bets, and a couple of televisions were set up outdoors so that patrons could watch the race itself.
Cynthia Joliff-Johnson and Joyce Thornton were co-chairwomen for the event. All members of the organization, including outgoing president Dr. Mendee Ligon and incoming president Vonda Colquitt, helped to organize the party, which was a fundraiser for the Links' community projects and educational efforts.
Matt Conigliaro was chairman for the American Stage Gala Under the Stars on April 26, and he is the theater company's next president, but he was not the auctioneer at the annual fundraiser. Jason Alpert of Fort Lauderdale had those duties at the event, which raised a record amount of money for the theater's artistic and educational programming.