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Guests go to land of wonder

The Cheshire Cat greeted guests, and Alice herself warned against playing croquet with the Queen of Hearts.

"She cheats," Alice said of the queen, "and she goes around saying, "Off with their heads."'

That was part of the fun at Friday's Mad Hatter's Ball benefit for the Florida Blood Services Foundation. The inaugural $175-a-ticket Gift of Life Gala filled St. Petersburg's Coliseum with Alice in Wonderland amusements.

How about croquet with flamingo head mallets and furry hedgehog balls? Cups and saucers sprouted from flower boxes between wickets.

Silent and live auctions, dinner and dancing hooked 225 guests, including creative top hat wearers Gregg Vosler and McIver Berner.

Another activity: Guessing the number of lives touched by the 80 gallons of blood donated by Frank Knight of St. Petersburg. Give up? 1,920.

HARP AND FLUTE: Guests gathered around the fireplace in Toni Everett's living room on a chilly Feb. 13 for a Florida Orchestra Guild Soiree featuring principal harpist Anna Kate Mackle and flutist Daphne Soellner. Mort Stupp tended bar as patrons looked for their names on the chair covers. Everett opened her Golfview brick mansion (designed in 1925 by architect Leo Elliott) to 70 orchestra supporters, even though she was away at a business meeting.

Preparation for the Guild's Designer Showhouse was the talk of the night, the group's first since 1999. Lucie and Mike Sweeney have loaned their 4816 Beachway Drive home for decorators to showcase their work. Guild members will offer $15 tours, a boutique, a March 18 gala and Sunday jazz brunches from March 19 through April 9.

Showhouse chairwoman Kathy Woods hosted 100 guests, including 20 designers, at a Bare Bones open house Saturday. They took a last look before the frenzy of painting, wallpapering and furnishing begins.

ALL HEART: "For the Love of a Garden" diverted 200 guests to the Tampa Garden Club on Valentine's Day. Co-chairs Lollie Scott and Dan Sweet offered a buffet dinner alternative for green-thumbed Cupids and their sweethearts.

Honorary chairs Bev and Al Austin greeted them all, a fitting choice since he was the contractor when the club was built in the early 1960s. Auctioneer Laura York's sales pitch put the benefit total near $20,000.

SCHOLARS AND SWEETS: Tampa Woman's Club members met some of the student recipients of their fundraising efforts at the annual Silver Scholarship Tea at Tessie and Charles Raymondo's Swann Estates home Feb. 14. The Raymondos were also celebrating their 13th wedding anniversary that day.

Education is why we are here, emphasized tea co-chairwoman Nancy White. She invited student musicians from Hillsborough Community College and the University of Tampa to entertain the ladies. Past presidents poured, including Marilyn Alessi and Pat Keel, president-elect of the Florida Federation of Woman's Clubs, who spoke about the chapter's importance to the state operation. Debbie Dicus, Laura Lang and Rae Pemberton modeled Lilly Pulitzer designs from the Pink Palm.

GRANTING JOY: As soon as her $1-million donation to The Children's Home was announced, Joy Culverhouse Daugherty slipped out of a cocktail reception in her honor at Palma Ceia Golf and Country Club on Feb. 16. A heartrending video was about to start.

"Too hard to watch," said Daugherty, who spent eight years on the board of trustees. She hugged former son-in-law Herb Gold and tiptoed out. The Joy McCann Foundation gift is specifically to turn a former school on the Memorial Highway campus into the Jack McElroy Clinical Treatment Center.

Daugherty's gift puts them almost halfway to the $4.6-million goal, said Paul Avery, chief operating officer of Outback Steakhouse and chairman of the Children's Home capital campaign. The money is needed to renovate the 60-acre residence for abused, abandoned or neglected children.

Honorary campaign chairs Brenda and Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf added their support. He invited the crowd to shoot "zzbirds" with him March 25 at his annual Children's Home Sporting Clays Classic.

CORRECTIONS: In last week's Diary, an incorrect caption accompanied a photo of Liz and David Kennedy, and a photo of Meg and Gary Moskovitz was omitted. The correct photos and captions are shown here. Another photo misidentified jazz musician John Lamb, who is pictured.

Mary Jane Park contributed to this column. To pass along tips to Amy Scherzer, blog her at www.sptimes.com/party where you'll find more pictures, events and links, or call 226-3332.

Al and Bev Austin, honorees of a Feb. 14 auction party for the Tampa Garden Club, greet daughter Amy and son-in-law Nelson Guagliardo at the benefit.

Pat Keel, from left, Nancy White, Jo Anne Moses and Tessie Raymondo celebrate Valentine's Day at the Tampa Woman's Club's Silver Scholarship Tea.

CHISELER CHIC: Lissa Knopke, left, and Jan DeFosset modeled fashions they call Recyclable Retro at the Chiselers meeting Feb. 15 at the University of Tampa. They designed their outfits from some of the clothing donated to the Chiselers Market set for March 11 on the UT campus.

Doug and Hillary Cone, patrons of the Florida Orchestra Guild Soiree series, enjoy the intimate concert Feb. 13.

Meg and Gary Moskovitz enjoyed five short movies at the Tampa Bay Jewish Film Festival Feb. 8 at the St. Pete Times Forum.

Liz Kennedy loved surprising husband David with his selection as 2005 Citizen of the Year at the Florida State Fair's Governor's Day Luncheon on Feb. 13.

The Cho brothers, Jai H., far left, and Jai P., far right, attend the Florida Orchestra Guild Soiree with their wives, Jawon and Kim, on Feb. 13.

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