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Hospital gala takes a little creative squeezing

It's a problem most gala committees would love to have: Every seat at the party is sold even before invitations are mailed.

That's a problem?

For St. Anthony's Health Care Foundation, which held its gala on Saturday evening, it could have been. Late in the summer, the fall fund-raiser had to relocate from a larger venue to the Sunset Ballroom at the Vinoy Golf Club, with fewer seats.

Reservations for corporate tables and a heavy response to "Hold-the-Date" cards sent in August quickly filled most of the 240 seats available.

Which meant that many annual supporters who had wanted to go and planned to go could not.

A letter sent in early October to everyone on the mailing list from Mandy Peterson, the foundation's director, and Barbara Kyes, party chairwoman, explained and apologized for the situation.

By Saturday evening, through a combination of tact, creative table arrangements and a few cancellations, most aspiring party-goers were accommodated.

Greeting them at the entrance were Joy Gorzeman, new chief operating officer of St. Anthony's Hospital, husband Jack, and Dr. Michael Rauchway, chairman of the foundation, and wife Audrey.

Ballroom tables and chairs were draped Ballroom tables and chairs were draped in white and gold, with centerpieces of red roses and greenery intertwined through brass horns, in deference to the All Saints Day theme, "When the Saints Go Marching In."

In the party crowd were Blanchard and Becky Jolly; Dr. John and Helen Boyle; Mark and Sue Brody; Frank and Barbara Murphy; Cary and Joan Putrino, who brought Jeannie Bryson, a friend visiting from Boston; Ford Kyes; David and Marcia Feaster; Roy Harrell and Ginny Roo; Jim Krause; David and Malinda Ottinger; David and Lenore Mulock; Dr. Bill and Terry West Cobb; and Clark and Candy Scherer.

Standout evening attire at the party was not a ball gown but Bob Fleeting's highlander formal wear, complete with kilt, sporran and silver-buttoned jacket. The Scottish native recently moved to St. Petersburg with his wife, Ann Chadwick Fleeting. The tartan plaid was that of the Kilmarnock Football Club.

Peggy Wolfe and Lynn Gervais included unusual items in the auction, such as Rebecca Gifford's hand-painted silk scarf of the Sunset Ballroom, that guests responded to with generous bids.

The most spectacular item was a baseball package donated by Devil Rays general manager Vince Naimoli: 12 seats in the owner's box for the Devil Rays-New York Yankees game in the inaugural season. It was snapped up by a group that included Dr. Steve and Cathy Collins, Emory and Margaret Wood, Drs. David and Jane Nunnelly, Jeff and Diane McClanathan, and Dr. Rick and Peggy Martinez.

Unique was a dinner at the home of the Most Rev. Robert Lynch, purchased by Phillip and Barbara Sealund.

Gracious touch: After dinner, honorary chairmen Naimoli and Bishop Lynch visited each table, chatting with guests and thanking them for their support.

The St. Petersburg Museum of History opened "Clyde Butcher's Everglades," a photography exhibit, with a preview party on Sunday night.

Organizing "A Black and White Evening" were Sharon Clayton-Keller and Laura Dooley. They joined executive director Sam Bond and board president Betsy Owens in welcoming a mostly black-clad crowd that included Stephanie Goforth, Murray and Mary Cross, Bill and Margaret Dawson, Frances Pruitt, Faith Baker, Ben and Carol Fisher, Sandy and Bill Bozeman, Doreen Nicolaysen, Dr. Charles and Eunice Hirsch, Chana Olmstead, Louise Bennett, Dr. Joe Pilkington, Celma Mastry and Gigi Pike.

Clyde and Niki Butcher came for the event from their home in the Everglades. Before the party, they talked about the death of their son Ted, at age 17, in 1986. Grief drove Butcher, until that time a successful commercial color photographer, into the stillness of the swamps carrying a camera loaded with black and white film. He emerged with a portfolio of eloquent photographs and a new passion for the "hidden" Florida he had discovered. Today, he seems to love being an advocate for Florida's environment almost as much as photographing it.