tampabay.com

Friends of Joshua House

By AMY SCHERZER
Published April 20, 2007


Gypsies, lovers and dueling suitors from Il Trovatore (The Troubadour) enchanted Opera Tampa League patrons at a two-part gala at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.

On April 12, Maestro Anton Coppola fascinated 120 patrons with juicy details on the twisted plot on the Morsani stage, followed by a Carrabba's buffet in the courtyard.

Opera legend Sherrill Milnes, honorary chair of Opera Week, added his valuable insights.

The celebration continued April 13 with dinner before the opera and a meet-the-cast party afterwards.

During the intermission, director Judy Lisi announced Chris Goldsmith's $20 raffle ticket won him the two-carat diamond swirl necklace designed and donated by Continental Jewelry for TBPAC's 20th anniversary.

A 3-D computer animation of the exterior of the proposed 50,000-square-foot 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 CEO Al Najjar's delight, Wilborn and board chair Heidi Shimberg also sold 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.

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, hand-painted tile souvenirs; 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 the demand and supply of illegal drugs and the suffering they cause, said Bill Janes, Florida's drug control 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.

"He defies laws of nature" added Nafe, "showing up at every function or gala with two or more people."

Kidded Farrell: "If you forget your child's birthday or your pet's name, call Ron."

Counting down David Letterman-style, Nafe's No. 1 reason to roast Weaver: "He's Tampa's answer to Paris Hilton."

His 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.

 

Events

Friday: Mozart, Motown and More benefits the Florida Orchestra; 6 p.m.; A La Carte Pavilion; $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; www.ryan nece56.com or 251-3624.

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

Thursday: 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.; $275; 935-8552.