Eyes teared up more than once at the Five Fabulous Females luncheon, which honors community volunteers and raises funds for Academy Prep Center of St. Petersburg.
The crowd of 440 watched a video with students talking about why they liked the middle school they attend for 11 hours a day, six days a week, eleven months a year.
The film included students from the past decade discussing what they hoped to do in college and beyond. It ended with the same students in the present talking about their job and college experiences which they largely credit to Academy Prep.
Betty Sembler, one of the five honorees, struck another emotional chord with a surprise gift to Joslyn Eliga, the eighth-grader who introduced her. First Sembler gave her a few words of advice, including: "The good you do will be forgotten. Do good anyway. The good you do will not be enough. Do good anyway," she said.
Then she asked her husband, Mel Sembler, to join her on stage.
"Joslyn, Ambassador Sembler and I would like to pay for the first year of any school you choose," she said. Joslyn beamed and guests teared up. Sembler has focused much of her life on fighting the war on drugs locally and nationally.
Four other "fabulous females" were equally appreciated and saluted.
Dr. Pallavi Patel, who has been a child health and education advocate around the world, praised Academy Prep and talked about the need for similar opportunities worldwide.
"If you want to call me fabulous, I'm there," she joked.
Nikki Gaskin-Capehart, St. Petersburg's director of Urban Affairs, lauded Academy Prep students' determination. She thanked her mother for being a catalyst in her own success. "You are my Shero," she said to her mom, Louise Gaskin, sitting a few feet away.
Sherry Sacino heads the Youth Empowerment Alliance. It supports projects such as Youth Advocacy, a consortium of children's rights experts and Youth Out Loud, a news service for kids' issues. She also started Rescue Writing, which helps teachers and parents ignite a love of writing in children.
Philanthropist Anne Von Rosenstiel worked in science education in New York City before moving to St. Petersburg. She helped develop nuclear medicine scans for brain tumors at Sloan Kettering Hospital. She's now an artist.
"I started taking art classes when I was young — 75 years old," she said.
In the past eight years, 100 percent of Academy Prep students graduated from high school on time while living in an area where fewer than half the adults hold a high school diploma. Seventy-five percent of graduates go on to college and 9 percent serve in the armed forces.
The name didn't lie. The 85th annual All Children's Hospital Guild Charity Ball was indeed "A Knight to Remember." The event put on by the guild's Evening Branch transformed St. Petersburg's Coliseum into a Medieval castle.
After being greeted by Evening Branch president Jennifer Christ, guests entered a dimly lit forest to find a sword in a stone, a dragon's lair, and two round cocktail bars built of rocks. With the aid of dry ice, the dragon breathed smoke as did the signature drink of the evening, the Dragon's Breath Martini.
Guest Diana Whittle said the bartender warned her not to swallow the ice in its solid state but once it melted it wouldn't be harmful. When other partygoers said they didn't receive the same warning, Whittle quipped: "I guess he thought he had to tell me because I'm a blonde."
The night was dedicated to Dr. Peter Orobello, who worked with All Children's Hospital for 26 years before his death in August at age 59.
Guest speakers were Caroline Brasfield Carter, whose son Tyler beat cancer at All Children's, and Lindsay Jones, the nurse who cared for Tyler through his struggle and triumph. Jones herself was once the parent of a child fighting a bleeding disorder at All Children's. The experience inspired her to become a nurse.
Some proceeds from the event will go toward the Nursing Excellence program, which funds research and educational scholarships. Another portion will help finance a custom-designed pediatric critical care ambulance.
As the evening neared its end, co-chairs Janet Lynn and Tricia Davidson finally started to relax and even shared a lipstick in the ladies' room. Other guests included: Caroline and Brian Ellerson, Colleen and George Crutchfield, Mark and Celeste Stroud, Robin and Alex Glenn, Melanie and Phil Powell.