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Amy Scherzer's Diary

MDA gala really cooks

Published October 21, 2005

Bidding on a backyard barbecue with the Tampa Bay Bucs head coach fired up the crowd at Hearts of Fire on Saturday and kicked the Muscular Dystrophy Association gala into the big leagues.

Playing defensive auctioneer, Brad Culpepper, Tampa Bay Buc turned lawyer, advanced the cause with $30,000 bids coming from Mary Chris Smith of Allied Specialty Insurance and John and Cathy Long of First Advantage Corp. The trophy: barbecue with Jon Gruden and 40 of their friends catered by Outback Steakhouse.

Culpepper went pro and doubled the deal, offering each a barbecue party and scoring $60,000. MDA staffers and patients went wild at A La Carte Pavilion. Smith and the Longs, along with the other 380 guests, helped the gala net $267,000 to help Bay area adults and children who suffer from neuromuscular disease. (Smith also paid $4,500 for dinner for 10 with Bucs' General Manager Bruce Allen at Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar.)

Emcee Denis Phillips, WFTS-Ch. 28 chief meteorologist, rolled out a musical video of MDA camp. When it concluded, Culpepper tossed his script in the air and invited five campers, three in wheelchairs, to join him up front.

Hearing them talk about their favorite activities inspired the guests to sponsor 111 kids to attend the camp at $600 per child. The Outback Steakhouse bosses, Paul Avery, Chris Sullivan, Ben Novello and Bob Basham, and their various wives and dates, sponsored 25 campers.

With a drum roll for vice chair Marilyn McPhail, gala co-chairs Barbara and Jim Major, a national MDA board member, thanked supporters. She sang, he joked and bandleader Joe Stagi kept the dancers happy. Outside guests enjoyed cigars and port.

WOULD TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING players have come to Glitz and Sticks as casino hosts even if it wasn't mandatory? Bet on it. They seemed to enjoy the Oct. 11 benefit for the Lightning Foundation and Tampa General Hospital as much as the fans.

Brad Richards dealt like a pro at the St. Pete Times Forum. Martin St. Louis got a kick out of being the pit boss. Center Vinny Lecavalier met some of his new Davis Islands' neighbors.

Advice for next year: Dress warmly. The ice was covered with carpet, but the Forum was still freezing, especially if you were wearing open-toed shoes like many of the Lightning ice girls dressed as Roaring 1920s flappers for the night's theme.

Maybe dancing to the nine-piece band would have warmed the crowd of more than 500. But they were too busy gambling with their $250 in casino chips. Winners traded their chips for tickets to win prizes.

The players assisted personally with the silent auction, too. Goalie Sean Burke recorded his favorite music on an iPod for a basket of his signed memorabilia. Forward St. Louis included a journal in his collectible basket.

Nuance Galleries presented sports artist Malcolm Farley, who painted the raising of the Stanley Cup banner. Teammates added brush strokes and signed their names. Farley finished and sold the colorful painting for $1,500.

In all, the event raised about $100,000, which the Lightning and TGH will split.

* * *

LOYAL TO THE Y: The Tampa Bay Devil Rays' Dick Crippen did his best to rally the 200 loyal Y fans and board members at the Downtown YMCA's 10th annual art auction Oct. 14. Local artists donated some great artwork to sell during the $75 dinner.

"We did well, considering how people are inundated with hurricane requests and other charities," said Marilynn Harrigan, auction chairwoman. She expects to clear about $20,000 for the We Build People Campaign, which supports Y Girls Rule, a teen program in Brandon and coming soon to the Central City YMCA.

Y member Mel Carver gave the invocation and introduced Phil Siapno, who spoke humorously about a serious bike accident and his Y-aided recovery. Like many in the crowd that night, both men consider the Y their second home.

* * *

CHAIRMAN BROOKS: The Boys & Girls Club thanked 100 patrons of its upcoming 24th annual Steak Dinner on Monday at Richard and Melanie Gonzmart's gorgeous new home on the Hillsborough River.

Over paella from their Columbia restaurant, guests met Tampa Bay Buc Derrick Brooks and two members of the Brooks' Bunch. Shirika Washington, 15, and Nick Huetteman, 14, spoke of their trip to Africa with Brooks and how he changed their lives. With that, board president Steve Carpenter made Brooks the club's first honorary chairman of the board.

Asked how he first got involved with the Boys & Girls Club, Brooks quipped, "Back then, I just wanted to give away tickets to get people to go to Bucs games."

The annual dinner - Nov. 9 at Busch Gardens - is a sellout with 650 guests. Honorees Bill and Betty Poe bought eight tables. Two club kids will join each table.

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


TODAY: Fur Ball benefits Big Cat Rescue, Roaring 1920s theme; A La Carte Pavilion; $150 for admission at 6:30 p.m., $100 at 7:30 p.m.; 889-7244.

TODAY: NautiNight Masquerade benefits Florida Aquarium; 21 and older; open bar costume party; 8 p.m.; 701 Channelside Drive; $70 for members, $65 nonmembers; 273-4568.

SATURDAY: MOSI National Hispanic Scientist of the Year gala honors Dr. Edmond Yunis; 7 p.m.; 4801 E Fowler Ave.; $75 or $140 per couple; 987-6077.

SUNDAY: Island Night at Jackson's wine tasting benefits LifePath Hospice; 5:30 p.m.; Jackson's Bistro on Harbour Island; $60 in advance, $75 at the door; 871-8433.

TUESDAY: Celebration of Hope Gala benefits the Florida Prostate Cancer Network; 6 p.m.; Hyatt Regency downtown Tampa; $150; 806-2800.

OCT. 27: Key to the Cure fashion show benefits women's reproductive cancer research at Moffitt; 5 to 9 p.m.; Saks Fifth Avenue donates 2 percent of sales; $50 and up; 632-1403.

OCT. 30: Starry Nights auction to benefit Mental Health Care Foundation; 5-7 p.m.; St. Bart's Island House Restaurant, 1502 S Howard Ave.; $55; 272-2244.

[Last modified October 20, 2005, 09:11:40]

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