TAMPA — As her father's health worsened, Sheena Swartz widened her search for the perfect wedding gown. She didn't know if he'd live to see her marry Nick Bentley, but she promised that he would see his only child in the dress of her dreams.
"I tried on more and more until I got the one he absolutely loved," Sheena said.
Paul Swartz of Fort Myers, the victim of a 2004 car accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down, passed away at age 58. He exemplified how to make the best of any situation, Sheena said in her eulogy last year....
04/23/15 Human Interest
22nd annual Magnolia Ball
Earth Wind & Fire grooved its greatest hits, rewarding elated Magnolia Ball guests for raising $3,270,775 to expand research and treatment at the Moffitt Cancer Center. Carol and Frank Morsani started the gala appeal with an offer to match the first $500,000. As donors' names flashed across video screens, CEO Dr. Alan List popped up to announce another $500,000 pledge, this one from Jeff and Penny Vinik who were off celebrating the Tampa Bay Lightning win Saturday....
04/16/15 Visual Arts
TAMPA — Ruby Bridges couldn't have imagined the millions of lives she would change that day, Nov. 14, 1960, when U.S. marshals walked her into first grade. Nor was it likely Norman Rockwell anticipated the effect his painting of those historic steps would have.
An artist who specialized in magazine covers, Rockwell stretched the era's publishing boundaries to depict the lone 6-year-old, black child integrating an all-white, public school in New Orleans, the first in the Deep South. Rockwell didn't even know Ruby's name when he painted The Problem We All Live With for the cover of Look magazine in 1964....
04/15/15 Human Interest
Red wine, red evening gowns and a rosy outlook for cardiac research primed Tampa Bay Heart Ball guests to pump more than $1 million into the American Heart Association. Even absentee patrons participated: Jeff and Penny Vinik and Chris and Sandi Sullivan phoned in their $50,000 donations to seed the Open Your Heart appeal Saturday at A La Carte Event Pavilion. Co-chairs Lorraine and Bob Dutkowsky followed with $25,000, then Lauren and Tom Pepin with $30,000 and 2016 Heart Ball co-chairs Nina and Trey Traviesa with $10,000. As dozens of donors popped up, heart transplant recipient Madeline Jones delivered each a framed copy of a poem she wrote....
04/09/15 Human Interest
Mayor's Inaugural Ball
The Economic Club, called the Exchange Club until last year, offered a black-tie, big bang theory to launch Bob Buckhorn's second term. Organizers correctly theorized a two-part Mayor's Inaugural Ball would sell out, starting with dinner on a Straz Center stage for 400 FOBs (Friends of Bob), and ending with a big bang: spectacular fireworks on the riverfront. Former mayors Sandy Freedman (1986-1995 ), Bob Martinez (1979-1986) and Dick Greco (1967-1974 and 1995-2003) nodded knowingly as Mayor No. 58 enthused about the city's explosive growth and potential....
04/02/15 Human Interest
TAMPA — When the band playing in the courtyard took a break that day, Ester Steinberg seized the moment.
It was lunch time, senior year, at Plant High. She climbed on top of a picnic table and riffed on her life, zinging her parents, the yearbook, Facebook. The straight-A cheerleader worked the crowd like an Improv pro, the laughter energizing a budding comic.
Flash forward seven years and you find the Oxygen channel tapping Steinberg, 25, and five other female comedians for a new docu-series, Funny Girls, which premiers Tuesday at 9 p.m. During eight hourlong episodes, cameras document, reality-show style, their everyday lives in the standup comedy culture as they perform all over Los Angeles. Several big-name comics mentor the ambitious young women, in Steinberg's case, Margaret Cho and Bill Burr....
03/31/15 Human Interest
Gasparilla International Film Festival
Volunteers scrubbed every seat in the defunct Channelside Bay Plaza movie theater prepping to reel 130 films at the Suncoast Credit Union Gasparilla International Film Festival. Their efforts — hundreds of hours — were appreciated by some 15,000 moviegoers and filmmakers.
The Florida premiere of The Surface opened the five-day fest March 24 at Tampa Theatre, drawing 900 cinephiles. Actor Chris Mulkey, director Gil Cates and the star, Sean Astin, the charming son of Patty Duke and John "Gomez Addams" Astin, enjoyed the Q & A that followed....
03/26/15 Human Interest
Friends of Joshua House Foundation
Lisa DeBartolo and Don Miggs sheltered Joshua House Foundation's annual Circle of Friends dinner at their Palma Ceia home to help the shelter continue caring for the neglected and abused children under its roof.
No roof covered the Marrakesh Express party March 20, served alfresco by Mise en Place with vivid decor donated by K-4 Productions. Ophelia's fiery belly dance on goblets and guitarist Ted Wray played to the theme....
03/20/15 Human Interest
Chiselers' Market Preview Party
Sure, the open bars and cocktail buffet attracted some, but attractive bargains were the main lure at the 19th annual Chiselers' Market Preview Party: china fit for a queen, stacks of silver platters and irresistible collectibles. Co-chaired by Casey Cathey and Jane Williams, the benefit brought 500-plus guests to Plant Hall at the University of Tampa on March 13. Everything bought that night cost "twice the price" as the next morning when throngs flocked to the 52nd annual Chiselers' Market....
TAMPA — As the owner of five construction equipment dealerships, Alexander "Sandy" MacKinnon set specific goals to attain success in business, a practice he carried over in times of bereavement.
He suggested Sandra "Sandy" Cross do the same to help cope with her own loss.
Before long, the two "Sandys" realized they shared more than a name; they shared a vision of a future together....
03/12/15 Human Interest
TAMPA — What's new at the 52nd Chiselers Market?
Chairwoman Jan Ely gladly rattles off improvements to what has been called Tampa's biggest indoor garage sale.
All types of credit cards will be accepted this year. Information booths will help orient shoppers to the various departments. And purchases can be stored at three Will Call areas.
Three complete estates were donated to Saturday's collection of highly desirable castoffs for sale from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the University of Tampa's Plant Hall, the former Tampa Bay Hotel built by rail magnate Henry B. Plant in 1891....
03/10/15 Human Interest
St. Joseph's Children's Hospital Heroes Ball
After 21 years, St. Joseph's Hospitals Foundation's Stepping Out Gala has evolved into the Heroes Ball with an all-star line up including board chairwoman Elaine Shimberg, Tampa Bay Rays' third baseman Evan Longoria, (sporting a shaved head from a pediatric cancer challenge) and community "hero" Gayle Sierens, the night's honoree for assisting at dozens of hospital fundraisers in her 38-year broadcast career....
03/05/15 Human Interest
DeBartolo Family Foundation All Star Charity Gala
Abracadabra… the DeBartolo family magically raised $1 million at its 12th All Star Charity Gala. This year's benefit starred illusionist David Blaine, a surprise kept from the 800 guests and even super-host Eddie DeBartolo, said daughter Lisa DeBartolo Miggs as she introduced some of the 50 celebrities at the gala. There were "too many Hall of Famers to name them all," she said, waving to NFL legends Jim Brown, Jerry Rice and Charles Haley, actor Adrian Zmed and Matchbox 20's Kyle Cook, who were among those dining at glittering banquet tables in an unrecognizable hangar at Peter O. Knight Airport. Eddie V's brought the antipasto and ceviche hors d'oeuvres and s'mores desserts; Puff n' Stuff catered the grilled pork chop dinner....
02/27/15 Human Interest
TAMPA — Three months after being struck by a pickup truck, Plant High senior Jackie Faircloth is making "baby steps" in her recovery, her father said.
"She's definitely progressing,'' John Faircloth said, ''but it's going to be a long road of baby steps."
The 18-year-old cheerleader suffered a traumatic brain injury Nov. 29 in Tallahassee after a truck hit her then took off. She was in town to see a Florida State University football game with her brother....
02/26/15 Visual Arts
TAMPA — Five years ago, Amy Leigh Carstensen left a lucrative career with one of Florida's most prestigious law firms to paint a future on her own terms.
"I am doing two things I love," said Carstensen, now a full-time artist and part-time lawyer. "With a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work."
Call her gutsy or call her crazy, but the leap has earned her entry into the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts four times, including this weekend, where she'll exhibit with 235 artists culled from 1,000 fine arts and crafts applicants....