Nights of delight raise a chunk to help disabled
By MARY JANE PARK
Published March 19, 2006
The Abilities Wine & Food Festival, the largest fundraiser of its kind in the Tampa Bay area, added an extra day and a black-tie gala and auction this year.
The party, staged at Fazal Fazlin's Park Street estate in St. Petersburg on March 10, was a feast for oenophiles and foodies that featured wines from Sonoma, Calif., and a multicourse meal prepared by some of the bay area's most creative chefs: Marty Blitz from Mise En Place ; Tyson Grant, Parkshore Grill; John Harris, Rusty's at the Sheraton Sand Key; Jeannie Pierola, Bern's Steakhouse and SideBern's Restaurant; Fabrizio Schenardi, Pelagia Trattoria; Rand Packer, Roy's Restaurant; Tom Pritchard and Sean Squires, Salt Rock Grill and Island Way Grill; Dan Tederous, Capital Grille; Robert Moore and Maureen Sharon, Mazzaro's Italian Market; Chris Ponte, Cafe Ponte; and Cal Codling of M.M.S.I. Espresso, the Tampa barista training institute.
Guests - the $250-per-ticket event was a sellout accommodating 260 - exhausted superlatives in describing the evening.
Add gorgeous weather, a waterfront view and a generous host who permitted valet parking on the grounds and food preparation in his vast garage space, and it was a night to remember.
Sally Poynter, who lived on the property as a child, was celebrating a birthday, as was Mary James, attending with husband Tom. Other key players were Abilities Foundation president and chief executive Frank DeLucia, with wife Mary Ellen and daughte r Lauren; foundation board chairman Richard Winning, with wife Diane; Howard and Dina Sachs; John and Sandy Stross; and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, with wife Joyce.
Max Elson chaired the gala, with Pritchard and Kathleen Calkins assembling the restaurateurs and Maureen and John Tuncer chairing the auction.
Jaws dropped, and eyes popped when a bidder who wants no public recognition offered an astoundingly generous $100,000 for a trip aboard a private yacht.
The next evening, nearly 4,000 patrons streamed into Tropicana Field for the annual Wine & Food Festival, to sample goodies from 40 restaurants, taste from 400 wines and bid on 400 auction items. Raymond James Financial was the presenting sponsor.
Officials were still laboring over details at the end of last week but said the event raised nearly $400,000 for the foundation, which supports disabled people in the community.
Who sold a programmable calculator and a Volkswagen van to raise $1,350 to build the first Apple computer? (Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs.) If you knew that, you could have been a contender in the March 10 Battle of the Minds for the St. Petersburg Free Clinic.
Everybody made nice over dinner in the ballroom at the Hilton St. Petersburg, but the competitive spirit kicked in after dessert.
The victors? The brain trust from the Racquet Club: Marshall and Diana Craig, Pete and Ashley Gairing, Earl and Pat Gehant, Nick and Shelia Routh and Shay and Michele Routh.
For the fourth year, Dennis Marsico was host for the game-show style effort. Jean Markley and Chris Agee chaired the event, aided by Bonnie Hargrett, Laurie Winters and Dugg Hadden.
The guest list included Jim and Alice Thompson, Mary Wyatt Allen, Bob and Nancy Siver, Bill and Trish Thomas, Bea Bryan, Ben and Carol Fisher, Anne Long, Jay and Cynthia Fleece, Jane Sayler, Jennifer Sayler, Covington and Janice Sharp, Janet Raymond, Ned Agee, Neil and Lorraine Franckle, Charles and Mary Franckle, Katherine Franckle, Susan Harvard, Marshall and Wendi Stevens, Dick and Carolyn Nelson, Bill and Mary Anne Bond, Maggi McQueen and Mike Keefer and John and Nikki McQueen.
Best of all, nearly $100,000 goes to the clinic, whose executive director is Jane Egbert.
Another boost for the Free Clinic, and for Daystar Life Center: Isla del Sol Yacht and Country Club members donated more than $103,000 for the two charities during their 16th annual Play for Hunger, a series of events in late February and early March. Many of the residents are only part-time Floridians, so their accomplishment - and their fervor for the cause - are remarkable.
Bob and Dixie Rogers chaired the event, and Chuck and Leeanne Palmer were co-chairs. Residents far exceeded this year's goal of $76,000. The money is significant: Jane Trocheck Walker, Daystar's executive director, said it is among the highest amounts generated by a single fundraiser for the charity.
Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services raised nearly $300,000 at its 12th annual Celebrity Celebration, held March 1 in St. Petersburg's Renaissance Vinoy Resort.
More than 700 guests honored Susan and Stan Levy and Nedra and Roy McCraw for their contributions to the organization. If you don't know already, it serves more than 40,000 people in the community each year.
Stan Levy is the Southeastern managing partner for the national accounting firm Grant Thornton; Susan Levy is a longtime teacher and advocate for children with learning disabilities. Roy McCraw is the regional president of Wachovia Bank for Tampa/St. Petersburg; Nedra Levy has been active in fund-raising for numerous Tampa charities.
Michael Vollbracht, the Safety Harbor artist and lead designer for the Bill Blass fashion house, was in town. Other prominent guests: Matt Silverman, Steve Raymund, Craig and Jan Sher, Thelma Rothman, Jim Shimberg Jr., Stuart and Kelly Lasher, Geoff Simon and Andrea Graham, Dave and Teddi Robbins and Howard Ross.
Underwriters were Gladys Schultz, Brent and Debbie Sembler and Rooms To Go.Social calendar
ART OF COLLECTING III: Arts Center event features studio tour, gourmet dinner. $125. Reservations required. 822-7872.
PUPPY LOVE: Fourth annual Pet Pal Rescue benefit. 6:30 p.m. Coliseum, 535 Fourth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. $50. 328-7738.
ART IN BLOOM: Stuart Society launches 10th annual celebration of art, gardening, floral arranging. Opening day cocktail party, 6:30 p.m. Museum of Fine Arts, 255 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg. 866-0925.
CASINO NIGHT, SILENT AUCTION: League to Aid Retarded Children (LARC) event benefits Pinellas Association for Retarded Children (PARC). 6 p.m. Treasure Island Community Center, 1 Park Place at 106th Avenue. $35. 398-3049.
Mary Jane Park can be reached at 727 893-8267; fax (727) 893-8675; e-mail email@example.com P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.