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Scene & Heard

Recession notwithstanding, we pulled out a most rewarding social season in 2008-2009, and it’s time for my annual Phil Awards to the outstanding philanthropists, volunteers and guests—and the galas/walks/events they contributed to. 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.


Most Magical One-Time Event

The wizard of the arts gala at the Sidney and Berne Davis Art Center in downtown Fort Myers. The Art Center was transformed into the Emerald City for last November’s gala to raise money for the renovation of the former courthouse and post office. Co-chair Fran Fenning flew in two stars from the Tony award-winning musical Wicked to perform. It was all so spellbinding … by Oz-mosis and more.


Best Dressed (Collier County)

(Tie) Mary Susan Clinton and Jan Goldsmith. Not only is Mary Susan gorgeous with a body for high fashion, she also manages to mix TJ Maxx with couture. No label snob, she’ll wear Target or Tahari if she likes it … and always makes it all look so smashing. Jan is a devoted shopper at Marissa Collections and looks amazing every time you see her. Her shoe collection puts Carrie Bradshaw’s to shame. This lady has a glow (and I think handsome new husband Panache Desai has something to do with that).


Best Dressed (Lee County)

Berne davis. this 90-something Southern belle is a fashion role model, beautifully turned out wherever she goes. The look is just right, the makeup perfectly done and not a hair out of place. Berne’s social schedule would wear out those half her age, and she just seems to be everywhere, looking fabulous.


Best Themed Affair

Art of Bond in January at the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center. Everywhere you looked, there were go-go dancers and characters like Goldfinger. Intrigue was in the air when organizers blocked off streets so guests had the run of food and drink stations inside and out. We were all shaken and stirred in the most positive ways. It was grand fun ID-ing the Bond characters as they cavorted around us.


Greatest Leap Forward  

Southwest florida wine & Food Fest in February at Miromar Lakes Beach and Golf Club. We offer a toast to the organizers for reinventing this event in its fifth year. Good will and dollars flowed as they raised the take from $150,000 last year to nearly $750,000 this time around … all for the benefit of The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.


Most Generous Donors

Trustees of the naples Winter Wine Festival. By the numbers alone, we salute the nearly $5 million raised in January at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort—bringing the total to $74 million over nine years to benefit the children of Collier County. Bidding highlight? The $350,000 offer that won a 10-day, food-and-wine Caribbean cruise aboard a 170-foot yacht. The festival—world renowned for its tent wine auctio—was beautifully orchestrated. And, in a great show of community spirit, many trustees crossed county lines a few weeks later to help its Lee County counterpart achieve success as well. All for the kids, they say, and how true it is.


Most Touching Moment

The annual luncheon to honor local philanthropists is always an emotional experience, but there was special poignancy at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa in November when Jeanette Arvisu told her story. The daughter of migrant farmers who were forced to move away to find work, Jeannette stayed behind in Immokalee to complete high school. She finished at the top of her class while mentoring and tutoring young people learning English. It was inspiring to get acquainted with such a brave, giving, accomplished 18-year-old.


Greenest and Most Breathtaking Venue

Magic under the mangroves in March benefiting the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. The amazing Wrenwood Farms, owned by Kermit and Jenny Sutton, never looked so beautiful. Here was an eco-friendly paradise for 400 guests to enjoy dinner and cocktails. The elegant white tent transformed with native plants, “green” décor and low-energy lights made for one enchanted evening. And, moving from the sublime to the profitable, this turned into the conservancy’s most successful event in history, raising nearly $400,000.


Best Show of Diplomacy and Grace

Todd and angela gates, co-chairs of the 2009 Heart Ball at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point in April. In a year-long effort, they took on the very delicate challenge of combining the two counties for this gala for the first time. The husband-and-wife duo managed this with style and generosity of spirit, and, yes, the event came off with a lot of heart.


Most Devoted Supporters

Arts for act attendees. In the first year without their beloved benefactor and patron Robert Rauschenberg, nearly 500 people showed up at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point last August to honor him and support a cause dear to his heart: the Abuse Counseling & Treatment Center. The crowd responded with generosity and enthusiasm, even when celebrity auctioneer Niecy Nash seemed to vanish mid-evening. Rauschenberg friend and protégé Darryl Pottorf did his usual star turn by bringing in fabulous artwork.


Best Good Old-Fashioned Party Around

The lee county cattle Barons’ Ball at Page Field Aviation last January. What can compare to this event that benefits the American Cancer Society? You don’t have to spend hours on your hair or shopping for a gown. Just put on your jeans, shirt and a cowboy hat and party all night under a beautiful tent. And you get that stick-to-your-ribs Southern barbecue menu, served buffet-style. It doesn’t get any better than that for getting down and having fun … all for a good cause. Can’t wait till this year’s at the Bell Tower Shops.

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