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YEAR IN REVIEW: J-Lo, A-Rod and Monica Lewinsky highlighted Tampa's 2018 social scene

Former Major Leaguer and Tampa native Gary Sheffield and his wife DeLeon Sheffield pose with former Yankees star Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez at the Boys & Girls Club of Tampa Bay’s Great Futures Breakfast. AMY SCHERZER | Special to the Times
Published Dec. 28, 2018

TAMPA — I never underestimate the effort and energy it takes to pull off all the fancy fundraisers reported here week after week.

Will the band show up drunk? Will a guest get a bad oyster? Will the WiFi go out as e-bids pour in? How do you wrangle 72 adoptable dogs and cats?

And I never, ever take guests for granted. They buy the tickets, book the babysitters and get all dressed up because they believe in the mission. But the non-profits, knowing that donors have to prioritize their giving, work endlessly to create the most memorable and fulfilling experiences. Here's how some succeeded in 2018.

Namedroppers: Former New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez and his girlfriend Jennifer Lopez dazzled the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay's Great Futures breakfast last month. Musician/philanthropist Peter Buffet fascinated United Way donors in February. Inventor Joy Mangano impressed the Waves of Change benefit for the Centre for Women in March. White House intern Monica Lewinsky mesmerized the Congregation Schaarai Zedek Sisterhood luncheon in October. Former vice president Dick Cheney talked about surviving five heart attacks at the Tampa Bay Heart Ball in April. Fashion designer Marc Bouwer mingled among the eye candy at Tampa Museum of Art's chic CITY Art+Fashion+Culture in September.

Foodie fun: Food and wine tastings are usually failsafe, and it was "Party time, excellent," with Garth and Wayne at Tampa Theatre's Wine's World. The beautifully-renovated Armature Works hosted 500 events since opening to awed reviews this year, including two standouts: Metropolitan Ministries' Tampa Bay Food Fight and Make-A-Wish Southern Florida's Dishes & Wishes. The Gathering hall sure gets loud, but parking is a pleasure.

Location matters: The River Center in Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park opened in May with dazzling nighttime skyline views. How great to see historic Orlo social club packed with millennials who have acquired their parents' values at the Beer & Bow Ties bash for the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay.

Costume parties: I lost count of how many women dressed as the Queen of Hearts at Tampa General Hospital Foundation's Alice in Wonderland gala in May 12. And surreal understates the Strange Beauty crowd at Pride & Passion at the Tampa Museum of Art in April.

Auctions: More often than not, they take too long and most people head to the bar. But we all appreciate those who raise their paddles to ante up thousands of dollars for puppies, villa vacations, deluxe sports packages and such.

Dance bands: The Beach Boys were a timeless treat at Moffitt Cancer Center's black-tie Magnolia Ball in April. Styx flashbacked at Florida Hospitals Foundation West Florida Division's gala in October, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts rocked Make-A-Wish Southern Florida's Wishmaker's Ball.

Chris Isaak played it cool at theDeBartolo Family Foundation's 15th All-Star Charity Gala, but it would have been way cooler if guest Mary Wilson, founding and longest member of the Supremes, had taken the mic.

I'm excited to welcome 2019 and after an extended holiday hiatus, celebrate more of Tampa's generous social and economic engagement.

Contact Amy Scherzer at


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