1. Hillsborough

Amy Scherzer's Diary: Weekly Wrap-Up of the Tampa Social Scene

Tod Leiweke, left, chief executive and president of the group seeking a Seattle NHL franchise, and Tara Leiweke celebrate with FARA Energy Ball co-chairs Steve and Janell Griggs at the 10th annual benefit for Friedreichs Ataxia Research Alliance and the USF Ataxia Research Center on Sept. 29 at the Marriott Waterside.
Published Oct. 4, 2018

FARA Energy Ball

The journey continues to arrive at a cure for the degenerative neuro-muscular disease Friedreich's ataxia. You can't ask for more devoted guides than Paul and Suzanne Avery who celebrated their 34th wedding anniversary Saturday by raising $2.2 million at the 10th FARA Energy Ball to develop more drugs and gene therapies for daughters Laurel and Allison Avery and all others aided by the Friedreich's Ataxia Research Alliance and the University of South Florida Ataxia Research Center.

"We're going to get it done," said Ron Bartek, FARA president, who was joined by the organization's four other founding board members at the Marriott Waterside, including neuroscientist Massimo Pandolfo who discovered the FXN gene mutation.

Journey to the Cure co-chairs for the third year, Janell and Tampa Bay Lightning CEO Steve Griggs, emcee Wendy Ryan and the 725 guests shared the enthusiasm, especially Tom and Karen Hamilton and Bill and Patty Finneran, who offered to match Fund A Cure donations up to $1 million. The tally zoomed to $530,000 which instantly became more than $1 million.

Scott Robertson's live auction was off the chain: Two $35,000 bidders for an Abaco Island vacation (via private jet); two Patron Tequila trips sold for $20,000 each; and two visits to the Avery ranch in Montana raised $35,000 each. And that's how the FARA Ball raised more than $15 million in 10 years.

Dishes & Wishes Tampa

Talking batting practice with the Miami Marlins and hanging with Derek Jeter keeps a smile on the face of Jordan Stofko. Stofko, 14, forgot about his cystic fibrosis that August day, thanks to Make-A-Wish Southern Florida. He shared the experience at Dishes and Wishes, a sampling party begun as Night of the Iguana in 1996 and named for its original backers, the founders of the Green Iguana Bar and Grill.

Ukelele player Jenna Denee warmed up the crowd for the Phase 5 band as auctioneer Jay Basinger roved about extolling the virtues of each restaurant and brewery before kicking up the live auction. Tasty standouts in the Armature Works ballroom Sept. 28 included Buya Ramen pork dumplings, Steelbach beef lengua bao buns and American Social goat cheese croquettes.

The 500 guests granted the wish of executive director Lisa Andrew, raising $216,000 which will underwrite 27 more wishes for children with critical illnesses.

Ybor City Chamber of Commerce Gala

Jason Fernandez loves family, food, baseball and Ybor City, not necessarily in that order. The fourth generation Tampa native was beyond thrilled to receive the 25th Adela and Cesar Gonzmart Award from fellow restaurateur Richard Gonzmart. Gonzmart flew in from Chicago an hour before dinner to make the presentation in memory of his parents at the 53rd annual Ybor City Chamber of Commerce Gala, then flew back at 6 a.m. the next day.

Fernandez, owner of the Historic Hospitality Group — including Bernini's, Tequilas and Carne Chop House — credits childhood neighbor Adela with getting him hooked on the business when he was a hungry kid drawn to her kitchen. Helping welcome 250 guests were Fernandez's mother Vivian, wife Kristen, children Jason Jr. and Ella, and emcee Gayle Guyardo of News Channel 8. The event Saturday was the group's largest and most profitable gala in half a century. So many friends packed the Columbia restaurant that the program was livestreamed for the overflow crowd seated upstairs.

Contact Amy Scherzer at or (813) 226-3332. Follow @Amy_Scherzer.


  1. Steven Currall prepares to deliver an address during his investiture as the University of South Florida's seventh president Thursday at the Yuengling Center in Tampa. MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times
    Though he started the job in July, Steve Currall is officially installed as president on his 137th day in office.
  2. Apollo Global Management has offered $130 per share for Tech Data's stock in an acquisition worth $5.4 billion. If regulators shareholders approve, the home-grown company will remain based in Pinellas County, where it employs 2,000 of its 14,000 workers. DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Private equity firms like Apollo create wealth for pension funds, financial institutions and individual investors by buying assets that typically are sold later at a profit.
  3. USF student Gabriela Young is the owner of Earth and Ivory, an online jewelry business with items made out of clay.  [Special to the Times | Sarah Foster] SARAH FOSTER  |  Special to the Times | @sarahtheartiste
    Gabriela Young went from selling bracelets to friends to making clay wares for customers with her business, Earth and Ivory.
  4. Chief Veterinarian Mallory Offner examines a female rescue puppy at the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center in Tampa. MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times
    With 250 of the pooches ready for adoption, each potential puppy parent has a 1-in-4 shot at getting picked in today’s drawing.
  5. Eight vehicles were involved in a fiery and fatal crash late Wednesday that left two people dead and shut down northbound Interstate 75 bridging Hillsborough and Pasco counties, authorities said. The driver of the white van pictured above, George Pagan of Tampa, said he saw the semi-trailer truck, left, sliding sideways toward him in his rearview mirror before impact. Pasco Fire Rescue
    The chain-reaction crash that closed the northbound lanes near the Pasco-Hillsborough line started when a semi-trailer truck driver didn’t stop for traffic, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
  6. Hillsborough Community College solicited "non-binding letters of interest or intent” last month from developers interested in purchasing the Dr. Gwendolyn W. Stephenson District Administration Center on Davis Islands. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    Developers have eyed the 3.7 acre waterfront parcel for years, but recent interest has prompted the college’s trustees to finally start the conversation.
  7. Left: Janis Joplin performs (AP Photo). Right: Joplin's booking photo (Courtesy of Tampa History Center). Tampa Bay Times
    Police let Joplin finish her set at Curtis Hixon Hall before arresting the singer in her dressing room.
  8. Yesterday• Hillsborough
    The Exercise Coach offers personalized strength training workouts for clients of all ages and fitness levels. Courtesy of The Exercise Coach
    Slated to open in late November, The Exercise Coach offers strength training workouts in a setting that differs from traditional gyms.
  9. Eight vehicles were involved in a fiery and fatal crash late Wednesday that left at least one person dead and shut down northbound Interstate 75 bridging Hillsborough and Pasco counties, authorities said. Pasco Fire Rescue
    Two people were killed and others were hospitalized in a pile-up involving multiple vehicles, authorities said.
  10. Tampa Mayor Jane Castor was being driven through North Tampa when she spotted suspicious activity. She called it in, leading to an arrest. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    Tampa’s mayor was being driven through North Tampa when she stepped back briefly into police work.