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Nuggets from Storybook Ball
By LENNIE BENNETT
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 17, 2000
Twenty-one years is a long time to be affiliated with an organization as a volunteer, but that is how long Ed Ameen has been a supporter of Ronald McDonald House, which has grown into Ronald McDonald House Charities of Tampa Bay, with three residences for out-of-town families of hospitalized children as well as other service programs. As an early owner of a number of McDonald's restaurants, he helped found the first Ronald McDonald House adjacent to All Children's Hospital, and has been president of the board and a member for two decades. He sold his restaurants a number of years ago but continues to serve as the charity's chairman.
He was front and center Saturday night at the Storybook Ball and clearly proud of the success both of the party, a first-time event, and the organization.
More than 400 patrons responded to invitations written inside Little Golden Book editions of Cinderella. As guests arrived at the Palm Court Ballroom in the Renaissance Vinoy Resort, they were greeted by all the accouterments of the fairy tale ball: a coach; pages in red tail coats; Prince Charming; and the heroine's mean stepmother, wearing a big swishy gown and towering red wig, who snatched men at random, deposited them in front of one of the bars scattered through the room, and announced in a booming British accent that they needed hydration. It was pretty funny.
Chairwoman Carol Saron, who looked fabulous in a simple blue chiffon gown, came on the arm of her son Myles, 11.
"Gonna dance with your mom?" I asked.
"Maybe," he said.
No glass slippers were in evidence, but Joan Putrino came dusted with sparkles, applied by her three children. Margaret Word Burnside wore a tiara and Sylvia Ameen's gown had a train that I accidentally stepped on, halting her progress through the crowd. Liz Gordon looked very au courant in a straight pink taffeta skirt, lavender taffeta blouse tied at the waist, pink mules (those are backless, low-heeled pumps, not livestock), a pashima shawl anchored with a pearl and diamond pin, and a Judith Lieber handbag shaped like big pink jeweled lips.
Their escorts, Cary Putrino, Aaron Fodiman, Ameen and Rob Gordon, not surprisingly, were more predictably attired in tuxedos and dinner jackets, though Ameen's cummerbund and black tie were hand-painted with moons and stars.
Also in the crowd were Cal and Marion Foelgner; Mike and Claudia Straw; Dr. Al Saltiel; Jeff and Jeanice Harring; Jim and Trish Nelson; Mike and Janet Carroll; Darryl and Melissa LeClair; David and Jeannine Silver; Bill and Mary Ann Bond, bidding on the John Lynch football jersey ("because he's my favorite Buc," she said); Dominic and Susan Connelly; Jeff and Barbara Lane; Jane Holister; Steve and Sharon Yerrid; Lewis and Martha Mohn, whose daughter Vickii Block created the decorations for the party; Dennis and Ginny Sexton; and Bill and Dawn Nyman, who tell me they are settling in happily here after a recent move from New Orleans so he could assume the job of chief financial officer at All Children's Hospital.
Ann Coryn and Jim Humpal attended with her brother John Coryn and his bride of less than three months, Sandy, and their friends Jeff Rathmell and Sue Ferrera. The Coryns own Dairy-Mix Inc., the company that supplies the ice cream base for local McDonald's.
Tampa Bay Bucs coach Tony Dungy brought a signed football for the silent auction, then lingered by one of the tables, "so I can bid on this spa package for my wife for Mother's Day," he said. Dungy also was there to collect a $50,000 grant from Ronald McDonald Charities that he presented to one of his favorite good causes, Family First. The money will fund a youth violence prevention program.
Surprised that a not-for-profit with its own projects to support was giving money to another not-for-profit, I asked Ameen about the grant.
He said that after retiring the debt on the third Ronald McDonald House last year, "and once we knew we had enough money invested to run our programs, we wanted to give leftover money to other charities that help children. What's the point in having it sit around? We hope to be able to give away $50,000 every year to a good cause."
I did not stay for dinner, but got to peek at the dessert, which I thought would have something to do with pumpkins but looked much better: white chocolate slippers filled with mousse and fresh fruit.
Ms. Saron expected the party to net about $120,000 and she said the group is already planning next year's Storybook Ball with a Peter Pan theme.
That same night, members of the Dragon Club, the oldest (and possibly most prestigious) men's group in St. Petersburg, celebrated their 75th anniversary at the Vinoy, where they held their first party on New Year's Eve in 1925.
It was a multigenerational gathering, with fathers, sons and even grandsons attending. The most prominent example was the Mills family: Bill and Helen Mills, Bill Mills Jr. and Gigi Mills and Billy and Christi Mills. Mills Sr., who joined in 1946, was honored, along with Dr. Joe Burns and John Knowlton, for the most longevity in the club.
Harry Moorefield organized the dinner and dance and there to enjoy it were Brent and Susan McLean, Bob and Betty Willis, Bob and Sally Willis, Jeff and Heather Goodis, Doug Feinberg and Mary Campbell; Tom and Charlotte Marr, Hadley Heindel and Norma Jean Harris, Mr. Sun Toby Krayer and Carol Krayer, Evan and Diana Whittle, Jim and Loretta Stitt, Paula and Mark Greene, who stood out in the conservatively dressed crowd in a white Nehru jacket and white patent shoes, Hal and Holly Piper, Troy and Judy Holland, Scott and Pattie Johnston, Hayden and Shannon Knowlton, Bill and Carol Ann Rhodes, and Joe and Joanne Fleece.
More than 100 members clustered for the group portrait, the first one taken since 1975. That photo, on display during the party, is a study in the more flamboyant formal wear of that era (a lot of powder blue tuxedos, if you can imagine).
"Do you always carry large photographs of your friends?" I asked Tom DeVoe as he arrived with his wife, Mary Lou, on one hand and a life-size portrait of their friend Bob Haiman in the other hand.
"Bob was determined to be in the group photograph, but he's in Japan right now so he had this made," said DeVoe.
Third stop that night was closer to home, a small neighborhood party at Ben and Carol Fisher's beautifully renovated cottage on Brightwaters Boulevard, co-hosted by Jack and Donna Painter and Gerry and Cathy Hogan, to introduce some new folks on the block.
We welcome Anje and Tim Bogott, Wendy and Gerry Chastelet, Jeannine and Jeff Hascall, Mary Ellen and Jeff Howells, Kathy and Joe Lukason, Suzanne and Jim MacDougald, Joanne and Erich Russell, and Helen and Peter Wallace.
Some of these couples are not new to the area, of course, and some of their homes are still in varying stages of construction. I figured the Russells, at least, were almost ready to move in after they turned on their front fountain last week. It makes a wonderful, burbling sound and, like the rest of the house, is beautifully crafted. But it's the wine cellar I can't wait to see. Russell, after all, owns Rabbit Ridge Winery in California.
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