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A doggone good time

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By AMY SCHERZER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 17, 2002

SEEING SPOTS: Invitations to the Storybook Ball always arrive in a classic Walt Disney book to reinforce the mission of Ronald McDonald House Charities: care and comfort for children and their families. Cinderella and Peter Pan are previous themes; Little Mermaid is next.

Last week, Cruella De Vil and those precious pups called the colors for the "101 Dalmatians" Ball. Almost all of the women wore black and white. The men had it easy in black-tie.

Vickii Block, owner of Spellbound event management, went doggone dotty decorating the Hyatt Regency Westshore ballroom. Black and white spandex polka dots and stripes covered tables and seats sashed in red. Huge painted canvases of scenes from the frisky film flanked the Breezin' bandstand. RMH executive director Janice Davis-Petrik cornered the market on Dalmatian beanie babies.

Sponsor Tom Pepin, president of Pepin Distributing, had his four daughters,Allie, Cassie, Bella and Tina, in tow, plus Buddy, the Dalmatian you've spotted in the Budweiser commercials. Tom and the girls wore Dalmatian print vests and cummerbunds with their tuxedos. "When we get into something, we get into it with both paws," said Pepin.

The same goes for the Hyatt chefs who shaped butter and croutons like dog bones and wrapped a licorice leash around the sorbet.

Honoree George Steinbrenner received a community grant for $50,000 to give to a children's charity of his choice. Easter Seals Florida gets the check, in honor of a grandson.

SWEET MAGNOLIA: The Commodores -- three originals and two recruits -- rocked the Magnolia Ball Saturday night on behalf of the Magnolia Lodging Program at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center.

The program will pay for rooms at the 40-suite Tampa Hope Lodge, which opens in June. The lodge, run by the American Cancer Society, gives patients and families a place to stay during treatments.

Ball co-chairs Don and Erika Wallace brought on the Motown band, with Don noting they'd been listening to them for 30 years. Oops. He hasten to correct that when he got the nod from his not-yet-30 wife.

Golden oldies Brick House and Nightshift ignited the baby boomers who mobbed the dance floor. Is that what set off A La Carte Pavilion's smoke alarms in the disco-ballroom? Nope. Blame the pyrotechnics of the band.

Wedding bells ring Memorial Day weekend for the center's namesake, former House Speaker Lee Moffitt, and fiancee Dianne Davant; and in June for Moffitt CEO Jack Ruckdeschel and Angie Stone.

CONGRATULATE CODY: They fooled Cody Davis. She thought it was her son, U.S. Rep. Jim Davis, D-Tampa, getting an award from the Junior League. She accompanied him, his brother Cody, and her sister, Maude Pallardy, aboard the Starship Dining Yacht for the league's annual dinner. Daughter Kim was traveling in Malaysia.

Surprise! The award, Sustainer of the Year, was all hers. She earned it with almost 50 years of junior league involvement. Sustainer president Marie Preston, reading Cody Davis' resume, couldn't help but note that her mother and sisters had been Junior League members, too.

Also at the meeting, President Mindy Murphy summed up the year's accomplishments and handed over the gavel to Nancy Maynard. Maynard reminded the group that Sept. 21 is the big day: the annual thrift sale at the Tampa Convention Center.

ON BOARD FOR PACE: It was planned as an instant get-away. Guests would pack a suitcase to bring to the cocktail party benefit for PACE Center for Girls at Union Station on May 9. The grand prize winner would be whisked to the airport on an immediate vacation. At last year's fundraiser, Erin Lowe left right away for New Orleans.

Travel isn't so easy these days. Airport security is intense, not to mention bosses, pets and carpools. So this year's winner, PACE board member Leslie Henderson, was just as pleased to get two open tickets on Southwest Airlines.

Emcee Secily Wilson, WTVT Ch. 13 newscaster, with help from her 15-month-old daughter Nicole, introduced PACE students, Shirlena, LaToya and Jessica. PACE (Practical Academic Cultural Education) teaches and counsels troubled teens 230 days a year at the 56th Street school.

When the girls spoke, silent auction shopping ceased and C-Rays Catering stopped passing hors d'oeuvres.

"They're not here because they aren't capable of doing school work, but because of family issues," said Nikki Daniels, executive director. "They catch up fast in our small classes."

IT'S ABOUT LIFE: Florida Blood Services showed off its new logo, new look and newest bloodmobile at "Brunch on the Green," a benefit for its foundation at the Golfview home of Pat Sullivan. It was the first outing for the $200,000 bloodmobile, one of 18 in the bay area, and the paint was barely dry. A quick tour showed guests how blood can be drawn from six people while two medical histories get recorded and five people sit in the waiting room.

Guests on a scavenger hunt followed clues that led them to staff members for answers. Now they know that FBS is the fourth largest blood transfusion service in the United States. Answers dropped off at the bloodmobile were entered in a prize drawing.

SPRING HAS SPRUNG: It's an annual rite, the Fame & Fashion Show benefit for The Spring of Tampa, Florida's busiest shelter for abused adults and their children.

Saturday was the 15th luncheon, traditionally held on a Saturday "so the working girls can make it," said co-chair Chris James.

Neiman Marcus' fashion show -- brief, but beautiful -- ended in a formal wear finale, led by a U.S. Marine. Emcee Cathy Unruh, a former WTVT Fox 13 reporter, hammed it up with a couple of hunky male models and co-emcee, Russell Rhodes, a Fox 13 anchor.

The two-hour silent auction is always big, but auction chair Suzanne Rood says this year's 250-item auction probably topped them all. Rood started the auxiliary in 1988 and now there are three, counting the Daytime chapter and East Hillsborough Friends of The Spring.

Patrons left the Hyatt Regency Westshore with a yummy gift from Neiman Marcus -- chocolate fudge sauce, tipsy cherry syrup and an ice cream scoop in a cardboard pint.

- To pass along tips to Amy Scherzer, reach her at 226-3332 or

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