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Amy Scherzer's diary

New Tampa Junior Woman's Club

Published April 20, 2007


A 3-D computer animation of the exterior of the proposed 50,000-square-foot riverfront Children's Museum of Tampa wowed 270 guests at the fifth annual Imagination gala on Saturday.

So did saxophonist Eric Darius, a Blake High grad who at 23 has already performed with the likes of Branford and Wynton Marsalis, Prince, George Benson, Al Jarreau and Babyface. His aptly named second album, Just Getting Started, debuted on Billboard's Top 10 contemporary jazz chart.

Auctioneer Paul Wilborn added to Darius' fame when he raised $11,500, selling two evenings with the sax prodigy. One included dinner for 10 provided by Catering by Design. To the delight of CEO Al Najjar of Citrus Park, Wilborn and board chair Heidi Shimberg also pitched 35 cardboard "bricks" at $1,000 apiece for the $20-million capital campaign.

The gala, featuring enormous book decorations and cheesecake lollipop desserts, topped organizers' goals by netting more than $100,000 for current operations and future plans.

Chanel Clifford of Arbor Greene scored $5,000 when her name was drawn at New Tampa Junior Woman's Club's annual Night of 5000 gala Saturday.

"I just can't believe this," Clifford gushed, promising "some for a charity that is important to me and I'm not even sure what I'll do with the rest."

Ace Factor kept nearly 300 guests dancing at the glamorous "Toast to 10'seltown," the group's 10th annual gala. Executive Chef Daniel Desmond grilled gourmet all the way at Saddlebrook Resort in Wesley Chapel. DJ Skip Mahaffey, 103.5-FM, emceed the event.

Lindsey Floto, recipient of a R.O.C.K. scholarship from the American Cancer Society for students with a history of cancer, spoke about living with cancer as a junior at the University of South Florida Lakeland. Later she sang Who Am I by Casting Crowns. All the party proceeds, including auction sales of a signed Florida Gators basketball; a Holland America Cruise and party for 30 at Cork & Olive, go to R.O.C.K.

In the past seven years, Night of 5000 has cumulatively raised more than $150,000 for charities and chapter members have donated thousands of hours to non-profit organizations.

For Friends of Joshua House, Bailando a Orillas del Rio, or Dancing on the River, took on a double meaning Saturday when hosts Richard and Melanie Gonzmart extended their dock over the Hillsborough River to build a stage for the Dick Rivers Band. It held up fine, first for flamenco dancers and later when Richard played conga drums.

"Take off your ties," urged Richard, wearing a pink guayabera shirt to guests who over-dressed for the $500-ticket backyard benefit for neglected or abused children now living at Joshua House. The Columbia restaurant family donated the Spanish meal and wine for 130 guests, fans for the ladies and cigars bearing Joshua House labels for the men. Daughter Andrea Gonzmart, who is engaged to Sherrod Turner, lives next door so her kitchen came in handy.

There were no raffles and no auction, but an anonymous guest's $20,000 donation brought the net raised to $80,000. Now add the results of the annual Child Abuse Awareness luncheon on April 13, featuring Miss America 1958 Marilyn Van Derbur at the Marriott Waterside. First, Gene and Patsy McNichols and Don and Erika Wallace pledged matching funds of $35,000 per couple. Then First Housing offered to match another $15,000. Don surprised the crowd by upping another $15,000 to make it an even $100,000, or potentially $200,000 with match dollars.

The usual lawyer shark jokes don't apply to Ron Weaver, the "nice guy" land use attorney the Hillsborough County Anti-Drug Alliance (HCADA) chose to "roast" at its first fundraising dinner. Weaver's connections drew 270 lawyers, bankers, developers, builders and appraisers, which helped the $150-ticket event net more than $20,000. The alliance strives to reduce demand, supply and suffering caused by drugs, said Bill Janes, Florida's drug control policy czar.

Four "roasters" - Jack Harris, Syl Farrell, former Mayor Dick Greco and Rick Nafe-teased Weaver for never missing a public event and never forgetting a name.

"The irony of tonight is Ron would be here anyway," said Harris. Added Farrell, "If you forget your child's birthday or your pet's name, call Ron."

Ron's wife, Jackie Weaver; sons, Ronnie Jr. and Michael, and daughter Allison Alexander laughed along April 12 at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. Also in the crowd: Wayne and Edith Wallace Green, just back from a trip to China, Betty Sembler and Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor.



Friday: Mozart, Motown and More benefits the Florida Orchestra; 6 p.m.; Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay; $250; 286-1170 ext. 326.

Friday: Magic in the Making benefits Ryan Nece Foundation's Good Samaritan Program; 7:30 p.m.; Tampa Yacht and Country Club; $125; or 251-3624.

Saturday: Heart Ball, Evening of Elegance benefits American Heart Association; 6 p.m.; A La Carte Pavilion; $500; (727) 563-8112.

April 26: Sixth annual Taste of Hope wine tasting, dinner and auction benefits Friends of Everyday Blessings; 6:30 p.m.; Museum of Science and Industry; $50; 493-0481.

April 28: Karamu, black-tie gala benefits Lowry Park Zoo, 1101 W. Sligh Ave.; 6:30 p.m.; $250; 935-8552.

April 28: A Toast to Hope luncheon benefits Kathy's Place, A Center for Grieving Children; noon, Outback Steakhouse, 11950 Sheldon Rd.; $50; 541-2672.


[Last modified April 19, 2007, 07:20:23]

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