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"Tropical Nights' bring children brighter days

The Times wrote about Brendon Bolles last November when the 11-year-oldfrom Port Richey instructed the 60 kids who attended his birthday party to give all the presents to charity.

The gifts, and checks, went to foster children by way of the Pasco Pediatric Foundation.

And the group showed its appreciation to Brendon during a party of its own, its ninth annual fundraiser.

"That's a kid helping other kids, and that's quite unique," said Dr. Russell Bain, founder and chairman of the board of the foundation, which identifies children in need and provides them with medical care and related services.

The event, "Tropical Nights," honored a number of children for their achievements and adults for their contributions to the kids. It also raised $100,000 for the foundation.

"Considering the circumstances (the threat of Hurricane Ivan that weekend), it's outstanding," Bain said. "The community stepped up to the plate."

The Sept. 11 gala at Heritage Springs Golf and Country Club in New Port Richey drew about 300 people, and featured a silent auction, and wine and vodka tastings.

"ZYR, Russia's luxury sipping vodka," made its debut in the area. The drink won't be on local store shelves until 2005.

The Green Flash jazz band provided the music for the event, which also featured decidedly Caribbean food and decor.

Mahi mahi with mango salsa, macadamia nut crusted chicken, island fried rice and mashed sweet potatoes were among the items served.

And the dining room tables looked like mini island getaways themselves. Each table had a small fish bowl in the center (yes, with a live fish) that rested on a piece of glass, with votive candles all around it.

The atmosphere and the information given during a pre-dinner presentation certainly gave attendees a reason to celebrate.

Last year, the foundation helped more than 150 kids get their much needed medications. It also offered a sick child day-care program, and granted special requests and mental health and radiology vouchers, in addition to many other services.

Bain announced at the event that a dental voucher program will also be launched soon. "I would say at least 50 percent of kids in Pasco County do not have dental (insurance) coverage," the pediatrician said.

The foundation has grown by leaps and bounds since he launched it with just the medication voucher program nine years ago.

At the gala, however, Bain seemed to take the most pleasure from acknowledging the work of others on behalf of the kids.

Among the many award recipients were Allen Altman, Dr. Myron Graff, and Jack Smith, who received "Children's Advocacy and Recognition of Excellence," or CARE, awards.

Among the children who were honored were Brendon, who received a "From the Heart Service Award," and Danielle and Marissa Price, who were each awarded a $1,500 scholarship.

The twin 17-year-old girls have cerebral palsy, and Danielle got out of the hospital the day before the event.

The twins have high GPAs and participate in an impressive array of volunteer and extracurricular activities. Marissa wants to be a lawyer, judge, and then a congresswoman, and Danielle wants to be a pediatrician. They plan to attend Florida State University.

The girls attended the event with their parents, Ira and Darlene Price, of Bayonet Point, and their grandmother, Arlita Costello of New Port Richey.

The girls' school guidance counselor told them about the scholarship, which they applied for on their own. So when the foundation called with the news, Darlene Price at first thought that they were soliciting.

"I couldn't believe it because I had no idea they had applied for it," the proud mother said. "We were kind of jumping up and down, literally."

Also among those at the event were:

Foundation officers Kim Brust and Ray Gadd; Bain's wife, Sharon Bain, with kids Jarrett, Cortney and Mariah; Dr. Jeff and Sandy Kromolicki; Gene and Sharon Magrini; Spring Hill; Bari and Connie Azirovic, New Port Richey; James "J.P.' Petkoson, Clearwater; Joseph Egger, Clearwater; Glen and Denise Parker, Tampa; Kent and Danielle Russ, Port Richey; Richard and Erika Tonello, Hudson; and Lisa Steele and Patrick Lau, New Port Richey.

Jennifer Stewart writes about social events and personalities in Pasco County. She can be reached in west Pasco at (727) 869-6231. Her e-mail address is jstewartsptimes.com.

About 300 people, including this merry group, raised $100,000 Sept. 11 for the Pasco Pediatric Foundation during the "Tropical Nights," fundraiser at Heritage Springs Golf and Country Club in New Port Richey.

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