A glitzy mix of science and optimism shot the first FARA Energy Ball to the top of all Tampa fundraisers this year: $900,000 raised for Friedreich's Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA) and the University of South Florida Ataxia Research Center. Knowing they're close to a cure energized a committee led by Suzanne and Paul Avery, former Outback Steakhouse chief operating exec, who packaged the Aug. 29 gala with a USF medical symposium, golf, tennis and patrons party.
How often do you chat about clinical trials over cocktails? Most of the 600 guests admitted they'd never heard of the neuromuscular disease caused by cell energy deprivation. That's why the A La Carte Pavilion ballroom silenced for a video featuring patients Kyle Bryant of Sacramento and Avery Zaritsky of Tampa before Las Vegas impersonator Gordie Brown made them laugh.
Most everyone dressed in black and white, as requested by gala co-chairs Mary Rothschild and Linda Seeger (mom of tennis star Jim Courier). Suspended paper lanterns and balls of pastel carnations and mums echoed FARA's logo.
Auctioneer Blake Kennedy saw numbers soar: $5,400 for dinner at Fleming's with Bucs coach Raheem Morris, Ronde Barber and his wife, Claudia. Tom Frederick bought dinner for 10 cooked by Chef Roy Yamaguchi for $10,500. Bidding heated up between Bill Allen and Herman Fernandez to golf with Outback founder Chris Sullivan in Pebble Beach, Calif., plus three nights at his home, Chateau Valentine, and airfare. Sandi Sullivan solved that by doubling the deal for $22,000 each.
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Ken Walters, that prince of promotion, did it again. The 12th Celebrate Sinatra dance party got more than 450 people dolled up to pay homage to his idol. The Ritz Ybor offered all the elements of style for a swinging good time Aug. 8. Who could resist Tom Tiratto singing Frankie's hits, backed by the Joe Stagi Big Band Orchestra.
Ol' Blue Eyes would have appreciated "Marilyn Monroe" stopping by to sing Happy Birthday to Joe Orsino. It was a surprise from dad, Philip Orsino, owner of Ceviche.
Asked if the $50-ticket and cash bar soiree was a fundraiser, as in the past three years, one of Walter's pals joked, "More like a Ken-raiser." To that, Walters notes he gave tickets to a few charities to sell and keep the proceeds.
Seen among the (Rat) Pack: Christy Atlas and fiance, Bill Vogel; State Rep. Jim Frishe and orthodontist Randy Feldman in a pencil mustache grown just for the party.
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Centre for Women Gourmet Feastival
Dan Doyle and Brian Allard played some golf and wound up as "Feastival" Kings, reigning over the 18th annual Gourmet Feastival hosted by the Centre for Women. After a golf tournament, they toured the Hyde Park facility serving 3,000 youth, seniors and families a year.
"The next thing we knew, we were co-chairs," says Allard, welcoming 1,100 guests to the Hyatt Regency Tampa on Aug. 6. Tasters grazed samples from a dozen wineries and 40 restaurants. Pork sandwiches from Rapscallions and Datz Delicatessen and Avanzare's herb-crusted pork loin won unofficial "Best Of."
Patrons came early for hors d'oeuvres from Byblos, Karma Cafe & Bar and 717 South. The week before, these VIPs got to bid on live auction items at a cocktail party at Neiman Marcus. That put net proceeds over $50,000, a 7 percent increase over last year.
Instead of the usual extensive silent auction, guests could pay $5 to spin a wheel and hope to land on a prizewinning number. Some lucky folks got treasure map trivets made by RaJshawn Songi Scott, a consumer of the Centre for Women services.