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Amy Scherzer's Diary: The Weekly Wrapup for Sept. 21

AMY SCHERZER | Times George Suter receives the Sue House Champion Teaching Tools honor from the award’s namesake herself at EmpowerED on Sept. 11.
AMY SCHERZER | Times George Suter receives the Sue House Champion Teaching Tools honor from the award’s namesake herself at EmpowerED on Sept. 11.
Published Sep. 21, 2018

Lions Eye Ball: An Optical Illusion

If only Justin Sight could vanish corneal blindness, like the cards the legally-blind magician made disappear at the Eye Ball: An Optical Illusion, the 12th annual benefit for the Lions Eye Institute for Transplant and Research Foundation which funds the processing and distribution of cornea tissue to those who cannot afford sight-saving surgery.

Saturday 's gala began atop the Tampa Airport Marriott with 360-degree view and appetizers from Roy's, Ava and Harpoon Harry's. Dinner and the magic show followed in the ballroom where CEO Jason Woody marked the organization's 45th anniversary.

"You can donate tissue through your driver's license and you can donate right here tonight," said auctioneer Sherry Truhler pitching a 52-card deck for $100 each; the winning cardholder getting to choose from the 10 packages in the live auction. Lucky Karen Santiago aced that "Best of" raffle and picked the New Orleans trip. Mystery Boxes sold for $50, $100 and $150, later revealed to be loaded with wine, hotel, restaurant and attraction gift certificates, helping to net $100,000 for the gratis ocular tissue program.

Fourth annual Beer and Bow Ties

Calls to the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay nearly doubled in June when Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain committed suicide, said CEO Clara Reynolds at Beer and Bow Ties, an annual benefit to reinforce that fear, shame or stigma should never stop anyone from seeking mental health counseling.

Organizers more than doubled the ticket price this year to $100 and still easily filled the Orlo House and Ballroom in Hyde Park with 350 guests, mostly in the high-suicide demographic of 30 to 50ish, drawn to craft beers, intriguing cocktails restaurant bites and the vital message. Event co-founder Brent Kraus chose the sartorial theme in memory of his bow tie aficionado brother Matthew; Laurence Hall sponsored the Sept. 14 benefit in memory of his son Spencer.

EmpowerED luncheon

Hillsborough Education Foundation president Kim Jowell and Steinbrenner High senior Christian Bermudez kicked off EmpowerED (formerly known as the Teaching Tools luncheon) with a math lesson: $28 million in school supplies since 2002, more than $3 million to 174 schools last year. That includes 6 million pencils, not counting those forming the clever sunflower centerpieces on each table Sept. 11 at Armature Works. HEF averages 312 college scholarships annually and pairs 350 students with mentors.

Superintendant Jeff Eakins shared uplifting accomplishments despite dismal state resources, noting that Florida ranks 44th in education funding in the country. So vote yes Nov. 6, urged Jowell, to approve a half-cent local sales tax referendum.

Board chairwoman Kim Thresher presented the Sue House Champion award to George Suter for volunteering more than 2,500 hours over 11 years. Teacher David Seis and Memorial Middle School eighth grader Day'Nay Oates added their thanks as the event raised nearly $100,000.


  1. Miranda Harwood, a fourth-grade math teacher at Brooker Elementary School, is the Hillsborough County Teacher of the Year. [Hillsborough County Public Schools]
    The self-described “data queen” uses humor to keep her students engaged.
  2. This poster was seen January 21 inside a Brandon pet shop owned by All About Puppies, one of two pet retail businesses in Hillsborough County that were granted an exception from county laws prohibiting commercial pet stores from selling animals that came from breeders. [ANASTASIA DAWSON  |  Times]
    The proposed ordinance would ban all commercial pet retailers and impose strict regulations on breeders operating within the county.
  3. Concentrix has told the state of Florida that it plans to lay off as many as 174 employees from one of the programs it has at the Interstate Corporate Center east of Tampa. This is the same call center hit with 245 layoffs announced in November. (Google street view photo) [Google Street View]
    In November, Concentrix, the California multinational company that runs the center, announced the layoffs of 245 employees.
  4. The Jose Gasparilla sails toward the Tampa Convention Center during the annual Gasparilla Pirate Invasion in Hillsborough Bay sailing north to Seddon Channel on Saturday, January 26, 2019. Hundreds of boats join the flotilla. [Tampa Bay Times (2019)]
    A schedule of road closures beginning Friday night, plus bus lines and shuttles for Gasparilla 2020.
  5. Loreen Spencer (left) and Sue Watts, the two newest members of HCI Group's board of directors. [HCI Group]
    “I just wish I had thought of this earlier,” the chairman and CEO said.
  6. Tampa-based WellCare Health Plans will become the headquarters for Medicare and pharmacy operations now that it has been acquired in a $17 billion cash and stock deal by Centene Corp., base in St. Louis. (Times files)
    New owner Centene said it “expects to maintain strong operations in Tampa,” which is anticipated to be the headquarters for its Medicare and pharmacy operations.
  7. Booking photo of Paige Ashley Fried, 28, who deputies say was placing advertisements on adult escort sites to set up an 18-year-old victim of human trafficking with men seeking sex. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
    Hillsborough Sheriff Chad Chronister said a 28-year-old woman was using adult escort sites to advertise the teen, who contracted a sexually transmitted disease and was given drugs so she could work...
  8. Ramon Christopher Blanchett. [Courtesy of Ramon Christopher Blanchett] [Ramon Christopher Blanchett]
    An attorney for Ramon Christopher Blanchett sought a lesser sentence after his client admitted to filing a false return.
  9. Elex Junior Jones faces charges of armed robbery, felon in possession of a firearm, carrying a concealed firearm, robbery by sudden snatching and grand theft. [Tampa Police Department]
    Elex Junior Jones, 18, was identified from fingerprints collected from an item of recovered property.
  10. This Feb. 6, 2015, file photo shows a Measles, Mumps and Rubella, M-M-R vaccine on a countertop at a pediatrics clinic in Greenbrae, Calif. A study released this week has found that a 2016 California law intended to improve childhood vaccination rates had the greatest effect on high-risk areas where the rates were the lowest. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File) [ERIC RISBERG  |  AP]
    The case involves a man who recently traveled to South America.