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Brandon Foundation celebrates 'love' of Angel Program

RIVERVIEW — Individuals stepped onto the red carpet and glanced at the Eiffel Tower while dressed in their most exquisite attire.

The Standing 8 Count Jazz Ensemble played a mellow tune fitting with the night's "Parisian Experience" theme. The "City of Love" proved a good backdrop given how much love the Brandon Foundation has shown recipients.

The foundation celebrated its 12th annual Evening of Hope on Nov. 3 with 400 in attendance at the Regent. The event serves as the nonprofit's annual fundraiser and raised money and awareness about the foundation's Angel Program.

Officials said the event raised $50,000, and the awareness also rose thanks to stories from those who received assistance through the Angel Program.

Alicia Sandage took the stage and fought back tears as she spoke about her friend who recently passed away from cancer. She also mentioned how the Brandon Foundation Angel Program became a saving grace.

"I tried everything I could to help my friend, her two twin daughters and other daughter," said Sandage, who chose to protect the family's privacy. "The girls live with their aunt who receives assistance from the Angel Program."

The Angel Program gave the twins tickets to Universal Studios Florida for their birthdays. They also presented the aunt a spa package.

Most of all, Sandage said, the foundation gives them hope.

Foundation executive director Liz Brewer knows all too well about the emotions expressed by Sandage. Evening of Hope came into fruition after she lost her father due to lung cancer. He passed away within six months after his diagnosis.

While Brewer's father battled with his cancer, the lending hands of others steeled her resolve. Now she aims to strengthen the Angel Program for others.

"Honoring our 12th annual Evening of Hope demonstrates the power behind this program as it continues to grow strong in the community," Brewer said.

The foundation established the Angel Program in 2006. It assists families in the Brandon community who experienced a catastrophic event or life-threatening illness. To date, 500 families received assistance through the program. It now consists of 18 Angel teams.

The effort also spawned the Junior Angel Program, which involves teen student representatives from Bloomingdale and Newsome High Schools. Junior Angel Chairwoman Jill Lansky says the program hopes to expand and include other students.

Daytime hosts Cyndi Edwards and Jerry Penacoli emceed the event. Guest speakers for the night included Brandon Regional chief of staff Dr. Daniel Lorch, Ashley HomeStore Hope to Dream Ambassador Ruthie Bautista, Spirit FM Morning Show host Abby Brundage and Blind Side actor Quinton Aaron.

Attendees also had the opportunity to participate in wine and food tastings from various local business sponsors such as Bonefish Grill, Longhorn Steakhouse, Nothing Bundt Cakes and Southshore Uncorked.

"Overall, The Brandon Foundation will continue connecting with resources that become available in order to assist our Angel families," Brewer said.

For more information, visit brandonfoundation.org. Call (813) 689- 6889.

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