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We Thought Three Houses, Three Wishes, 30 Guests

How social whirlwind Michael Eddy brought off a progressive party full of touching moments, great fun and worthy giving.

Hostess Michelle Eddy

Photography by Charlie McDonald

There are so few guarantees in life. But when you get invited to a party thrown by Michele Eddy, we can promise you it’s an invitation worth accepting. The Fort Myers hostess (and former Naples resident) is a fixture on the philanthropic scene along the Calusa Blueway and has a reputation for making new acquaintances feel like old friends— and then, accomplices.

Guests Elaine and Fred Hawkins are ready to party.

That’s probably how Lori Wilson feels. She met Eddy while the two were riding in a limousine back from a benefit last spring. Eddy commented how much she’d like to have an event that could bring together the organizations she holds closest to her heart: the Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southwest Florida and Make-A-Wish Southern Florida. It resonated with Wilson, and the two hatched a plan to make it happen. “I’m still fuzzy about how it all started,” says Wilson with a laugh. “I know there was wine.”

The resulting “3 Wishes” benefit was organized from the beginning to be a progressive party—that means partygoers travel from one site to another to another, gathering appetizers, entrees and desserts along the way. And, of course, there’d be wine. “We thought three houses, three wishes, 30 guests,” says Eddy. “We were going to have a water taxi take guests between the three houses on the river, but then the Loves (Norman and Mary) moved to Renaissance (off Daniels Parkway).” A minor glitch for a water taxi, to be sure.

Co-chair Lori Wilson along with Lesley Colantonio (above) mingle at the Eddy house while listening to the music of El Gato (below).

Undaunted, she invited 30 philanthropist friends from Southwest Florida to pay $1,000 each to attend—and they all accepted (whether they could come or not). And so, in the midst of a belly dancer and the guitarist El Gato (there was a Moroccan theme), attendees enjoyed appetizers and cocktails at Eddy’s beautiful home on the Caloosahatchee River. There they mingled and chatted with each other—as well as directors from the charities—and some of the people directly impacted by the services they provide.

That includes Eddy herself. One of her daughters fought off leukemia twice, and over the course of her treatments the family experienced the “magic and miracles provided by each of those organizations.”

The third portion of the "3 Wishes" party took place at the home (aob of Mary and Norman Love of Norman Love Confections.

Mary and Norman Love (above).

“Make-A-Wish had wanted to give us a wish for a while, but I always said no because we were able to afford it ourselves,” says Eddy. “But they persisted and said, ‘This is about more than being able to pay for something.’ And they were so right. The experience we had as a family, without having to worry about any arrangements or any details, was exactly what we needed. People don’t realize what a break from everything—all of it—means to a family dealing with cancer or whatever. You forget how to have fun.”

In addition, partygoers got to meet 16-year-old Matt Milligan of Bonita Springs, who has ataxic cerebral palsy. He was on hand to talk about his experiences and take photos of guests. As a Make-A-Wish child with a passion for photography, he had asked to meet the photo editor of National Geographic magazine. It just so happens that Eddy is the person who funded that wish. “You know, of the 10 most dynamic people I’ve met through Make-A-Wish, two of them are here tonight: Michele and Matt,” said Norm Wedderburn, president/CEO of Make-A-Wish Southern Florida. “Matt’s photos have raised $5,000 for us. He’s raised more money than any other Make-A-Wish child.” In addition to his talent, Milligan’s personality went a long way that night as he charmed the crowd from beginning to end.

The Moraccan theme was evident at the Eddy house thanks to a roaming belly dancer..

But as the sunset provided a gorgeous backdrop to round one, Eddy announced it was time we all headed to the party bus and limousines, which would take us to the next party venue—the historic Burroughs Home on First Street. This phase of the party was to be hosted by Eddy’s neighbors Rose O’Dell-King and Gary King at their waterfront home, but high winds from Hurricane Sandy forced a change of plans. (Clearly the water taxi wasn’t meant to be.) Luckily, the beauty of party buses and limousines is that the wine can continue to flow without interruption. And that doesn’t hurt the fundraising: 3 Wishes raised $30,000 that night.

Phase two of the event included an entrée by Chef Fabrizio Aielli of Sea Salt. To say it was inventive would be an understatement. Clearly inspired by the proximity to the winter home of one of the world’s greatest inventors, Thomas Edison, Aielli offered Gigha Island Scottish halibut with roasted pumpkin and Korobuta bacon served with a lobster milkshake and porcini truffle nitrogen popcorn. Not exactly the light bulb, but delicious nonetheless.

From there, the group really started to loosen up, climbing aboard the party bus as though it was about to depart on a middle school field trip to a candy factory. Which, oddly enough, it was. The third and final round of the progressive party took place at the home of Norman and Mary Love of Norman Love Confections. The couple’s newly renovated home was the perfect setting for the four-part harmony of El Quattro, an all-male a capella singing group from Orlando. As you might expect, there was wall-towall nougat.

Sixteen-year-old Matt Milligan talked about how Make-A-Wish Southern Florida made his dream of meeting the photo editor of National Geographic magaine come true.

Eddy and Wilson already have the next 3 Wishes event planned. “We’re going to expand the concept next year, and have the 30 original guests each bring three more friends,” says Eddy. “It’ll be at the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center. We hope to use all three floors of the center with the three different organizations each having their own floor.” She believes the water taxi will once again be superfluous.

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