Tampa Bay Rays pitcher James Shields and his wife, Ryane, creators of the Big Game James Club, have a suite at Tropicana Field where foster children are invited to watch games. That's one reason they attended the inaugural "Celebrate Me Home" gala, held in the ballroom at the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront, to benefit the Heart Gallery of Pinellas & Pasco. The organization promotes adoptions in the Tampa Bay area.
After an emotional video that featured Chris and Tammy Dunne, a Palm Harbor couple who adopted four sons separated during foster care, Shields presented an autographed baseball to the couple. But Chris Dunne had a moving account of his own, thanking the athlete for his mentorship of foster children and giving Shields a souvenir baseball signed by John, Aaron, Trisden and Galyn, the Dunnes' four boys.
The dinner event was filled with touching moments: the unveiling of the 2012 gallery of professional photographs that portray youngsters who are available for adoption; a video that featured another four siblings who hope for an adoptive family; a speech by Ashley Rhodes-Courter, an Eckerd College graduate and New York Times bestselling author adopted at age 12 by a Crystal River couple; and presentations by Melissa Seixas, president of the Heart Gallery board of directors, and Tina Tinret, its marketing chair.
More than 300 people attended the event, which raised more than $36,000, executive director Kristen Brett reported.
Lola Stein chaired the event committee, which included Heidi Akers, Lise Amundrud, Alicia Bryan, Robin Glenn, Gail Hasan, Ty Maxey, Michelle Nault, Vanessa Palmer, Karen Sierra and Tina Tenret.
Girls Inc. of Pinellas celebrated its 50th anniversary at a luncheon that drew more than 230 supporters to the Feather Sound Country Club.
The event honored Akiko Tanaka, founder and chief executive of the Tampa Bay Research Institute, who received the organization's first Outstanding Woman in Science Award.
The nonprofit, which is known for its before- and after-school and summer programs for girls, is placing new emphasis on and commitment to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.
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