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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.