BRANDON — In another time and place, Bob Savage and Tatyana Frost probably wouldn't have formed a friendship.
Savage, the CEO of his own IT consulting business, and Frost, a dance studio owner, found common ground through their passion for giving back to the community. And on Dec. 8, that passion will again yield the Holiday Charity Ball of Brandon.
"Tatyana started the event and I was taking lessons with her at the time and she asked me if I would be a sponsor," said Savage, who co-produces the event, now in its fifth year. "It became a friendly competition. We'd wake up and say, 'Who can make the most money today?' "
Savage had gotten to know Frost only a little after spending a year in her classes in 2011, but off the dance floor, the pair spent two months working nonstop to put together the event to benefit Toys for Tots.
Four years later, they've once again worked tirelessly to make everything bigger, from the amount of donations to the performances, food, themes and entertainment. Last year's Roaring '20s event raised more than $5,000 to go along with 28 large boxes of toys for Tampa Toys for Tots.
The duo credits the nature of their work for the success of the charity balls.
"It's hard finding a lot of help," Savage said. "But it's the fact that we are giving back to people who need it and bringing our community together in the spirit of giving that keeps us going when things get stressful."
Frost agrees, and says that while the long days of planning and manual labor are exhausting, the cause is what drives them to continue on.
"Financially, we receive help, but finding people to dedicate time with the holidays coming up is our biggest challenge," Frost said. "But it's worth it to see the community come together for the kids. It's all for the kids."
They won't deny that they bicker over various aspects while planning and setting up for the event, and Savage hates being "hit hard in the wallet" and being pulled away from their businesses each year.
This year, in an effort to expand the charitable aspect of the ball, the catering is provided by Metropolitan Ministries, which gets a portion of the profits and gives leftovers to those in need.
They call it a win-win situation.
"Right up to the day of the event I say 'I'm through and I'm never doing this again,' " said Savage. "But when I see that pile of toys and everyone dressed up and having a good time I think 'How can I say no?' "
They see the upcoming event as a testament to the friendship they've built over the last four years and think that the fifth annual ball will not only kick off the holiday season for the Brandon community, but also connect people.
"It's about supporting each other," Frost said. "Not just the children who will receive the donations, but it's also a networking opportunity for businesses to find out how to help each other and boost each other up."
Contact Kelsey Sunderland at firstname.lastname@example.org.