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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 ascherzer@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3332. Follow @Amy_Scherzer.

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