Scene & Heard
Style. Substance. Fun. What a great season we had in 2010-2011, and, in one final salute, I’d like to celebrate the people and events that made it all so grand. I pass out the honors with this qualification: My awards cover the events I attended and those reported to me by my most observant friends.
Best Fête for Patrons
Magic Patron Party. You board private boats, slip through the mangroves of Naples Bay and are shuttled off to the exclusive Keewaydin Club on the remote Keewaydin Island. This one-of-a-kind evening proceeds with a dinner of fine seafood and champagne. Is this any way to treat your sponsors, VIP guests and major donors? You bet is is—and the Conservancy of Southwest Florida gets kudos for doing it with such class last February.
Best Way to Raise Money
The Neighborhood Health Clinic Gala at the Naples Beach Hotel. What was the secret to raising $500,000 in just 40 minutes at this February event? Not live or silent auctions. Not raffles or other gimmicks. This dedicated and direct non-profit provided invitees with a great meal and some nice wine, and then simply asked the crowd for money. Actual patients at the clinic offered their pleas for help. One $125,000 donation jumpstarted the process, as guests began holding up their bidder numbers. Plenty of other attendees made $10,000 and $20,000 bids to help Bill and Nancy Lascheid provide healthcare to the underinsured and working poor.
What a pairing for a wine festival. Match a bold, stirring Bruce with a bright, sparkling Cynthia, and you have co-chairs Bruce and Cynthia Sherman creating a heady, memorable Naples Winter Wine Festival in January. Memorable in its vivid, tasteful look and feel. And memorable in its $12 million take at the auction, including a $1 million winning bid for an eight-foot-tall, 2,000-pound bronze sculpture and the $400,000 it took to walk away with the Perfection wine lot (100 bottles of 100-point-rated wines). Speaking of perfection, way to go, Bruce and Cynthia.
Most Surprising Location
Sanibel Sea School Gala. Organizers set up a huge tent with twinkling white lights under the stars on the Sanibel Causeway. This April spectacular featured excellent food and wine plus glorious views of the beaches and island—all while raising money for the Sanibel Sea School, a nonprofit organization that teaches kids about marine life and the importance of protecting the environment.
Most Loyal Followers
Magic Under the Mangroves. There is nothing like the threat of oil washing up on the beaches of Collier County to get supporters of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida to open their wallets. This year’s March gala, appropriately staged on the Capd’ Antibes property overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, raised a record $550,000. Credit a super-organized committee, a breathtaking venue and star auctioneer Scott Robertson for a successful evening.
Hope for Haiti. CEO JoAnne Kuehner stepped down this year from her leadership role in the charity she founded nearly 20 years ago, but she’s left her life’s work in worthy hands—those of her charismatic granddaughter Tiffany Kuehner. Tiffany, who made her first voyage to Haiti at the age of 15, has followed in her beloved grandmother’s footsteps, working on poverty issues in China, Thailand, Uganda and, always, Haiti. Tiffany’s passion, energy and knowledge of the daunting challenges of Third World nations assure a continuation of her grandmother’s impressive legacy.
Best Home Game
Wanderlust. For the first time in 22 years, this fundraiser staged its April gala at the very spot it supports. The travel auction took place at Sugden Hall, the home of Florida Gulf Coast University’s Resort and Hospitality Program. Guests sipped wine poured by the school sommelier, sampled culinary delights prepared by students and chefs, and tried out the golf simulator with the school’s pro. All that investment in training students for careers in our biggest industry is obviously working and, short term, provided a wonderful evening for the program’s supporters.
Most Emotional Finish
Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest. How could you not root for this plucky little event that started seven years ago raising $75,000 and has been gaining speed ever since? With the excitement and revenues building, it brought in $932,000 in 2010 and was aiming to break the million-dollar mark this past season. This is all for the Childrens Hospital of Southwest Florida and medical programs at Edison State College and Florida Gulf Coast University—and, boy, did its supporters step up at the February event. Businessman and philanthropist Harry Silverglide, AC/DC bass player Cliff Williams and his wife, Georganne, along with longtime festival backers Dave and Cheryl Copham, made dramatic bids, building the momentum. At the end, auctioneer Scott Robertson announced the total: $1.6 million—the goal and then some. Tears flowed and cheers followed, and I have to say that I’ve never seen such pure emotion at the end of any auction I’ve witnessed.
Hats in the Garden. It is a fact of life along the Gulfshore: Whether the guest speaker is Oscar de la Renta or author/decorator Carolyne Roehm (this past season’s celeb), this annual November fundraiser to benefit the Naples Botanical Garden has the crème de la crème of local women scrambling to attend. Many spend spend their entire “off season” searching for the perfect hat or fascinator to wear to this luncheon. It is always the unofficial kickoff to “season” in Naples, and the sellout crowd did get its kicks, as ever.
Most Anticipated Opening
Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples (C’mon). After five years of planning, fundraising and construction, the hands-on interactive children’s museum in Naples is finally expected to open in early 2012. Thanks in large part go to a core group of tireless supporters, including Neapolitan newcomer Tom Golisano, who donated $5 million, and Simone Lutgert, who raised considerable sums to make the museum a reality. Big as we are, we can hardly wait another minute—for ourselves as much as for our kids.
In July’s Scene & Heard, we reported that Erleene Sanders spearheaded the decorations for the Hope Hospice’s Celebration of Women event. In fact, Sandy Stilwell and Rosie Rundle handled those responsibilities. We regret the error.