Kellie Burns' Scene and Heard: September

News and notes from around Southwest Florida

BY September 30, 2014


Dazzling fashions, creative fundraising, stirring emotions—we had quite a season in 2013- 2014. Looking back, here are the people, places and things I cherish as most memorable.


Hats in the Garden benefiting Naples Botanical Garden. We get this luxurious luncheon every November with ladies sashaying under the spectacular tent in their finest fashions and most stylish millinery. What a cool way to signal the start of season in Naples. This being the 10th anniversary of the event, the program was over the top with a runway show that impressed even this fashion- forward crowd. And, wow, what a grand finale. We tip our hats to the show-stealing bridal extravaganza that included puppies, a ring bearer and two flower girls.


Persuasive, tenacious and a fundraising phenom, Jackie Bearse takes this season’s prize for “event chair extraor- dinaire.” This past year, she successfully launched the inaugural, sold-out event for the Florida Cancer Specialists Foundation. A two-time cancer survivor, Jackie has also chaired the Magnolia Ball, the 21st Oncology C.A.R.E. gala and the Immokalee Foundation’s Charity Classic. Can we clone her?


The Old Bags Inaugural Luncheon, benefiting The Shelter for Abused Women & Children. Leave it to three gifted party-planning divas—Kirsten Ferrara, Vicki Tracy and Sharon Treiser—to create a stunning designer handbag auction featuring a spellbinding runway show with designer Carmen Marc Valvo. A woman’s handbag holds her cell phone, credit cards, lipstick—and the key to her heart. There were plenty of bags and a lot of heart on display as the 500 fashionable women (and a few well-dressed men) got into the spirit of the event.


Racecar legend Roger Penske paid a whopping $900,000 for a bright yellow limited-edition Lamborghini. And he actually had a huge smile on his face when he did it. Penske helped push the 2014 Naples Winter Wine Festival over the $13 million mark.


Dulce Mendoza’s speech at the Guadalupe Center of Immokalee’s Taste of New York gala at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples. The 17-year-old high school student movingly paid tribute to her farm-worker parents,
who made tremendous sacrifices so
 she and her sisters could go to school
in America. Dolce has since graduated from Immokalee High School, is a Gates Scholar and won a full scholarship to Arcadia University in Pennsylvania. Guests were visibly touched by the young woman’s speech, titled My America.


A gaggle of Southwest
 Floridians flew off to the Napa Wine Auction to support co-chairs Jeff and Valerie Gargiulo, part-time Neapolitans. The event’s primary cause is community health, and those there to help included Lee and Penny Anderson, Bob and Joan Clifford, Shelly Stayer, Tom and Sandi Moran, Dave and Cheryl Copham, and Brian and Denise Cobb. The Florida contingent did its share of bidding, and the Andersons put up more than $1 million and won a VIP experience on The Voice.


Radio Daze, put on by Florida Rep. What a great way to showcase your actors, bring in community leaders and entertain a crowd without paying for the show. It all centered around an old-fashioned radio script and starred the Florida Rep ensemble with cameos by local business owners, TV personalities and philanthropists. The production went so smoothly no one would have known that most of the actors, including Tom and Pam Cronin, Sunny Lubner and Jessica Stilwell Catti, were not professionals.


American Girl fundraiser, benefiting the Golisano Children’s Hospital. Chairs Wendy Tooley and Ann Wittenborn pulled off quite a feat, raising more than $200,000, a record for any American Girl fashion show nationwide. Mothers and daughters loved getting dressed up, grabbing their favorite dolls and spending the afternoon at The Naples Beach Hotel last November—all for the cause of helping other children in our community.


Kudos to the five women who chaired the two most successful fundraisers this year. Both events raised extraordinary amounts of money for children. The Naples Winter Wine Festival, led by Adria Starkey, Linda Malone and Anne McNulty, brought in more than $13 million. And co-chairs Dorothy Fitzgerald and Elaine Hawkins raised 
a record $2.5 million for the Southwest Florida Wine and Food Festival in Lee County.


Magic Under the Mangroves, the annual fundraiser for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, did work its
magic in exceeding its goal in this 50th anniversary celebration. Aiming at a $1 million mark, the organization rang up a net profit of $1.3 million. The committee and guests were over the moon under those mangroves.


Once again, the Lee-Collier Heart Ball takes home the prize. Each year, more and more guests come for the “after-party,” when the tables inside the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point ballroom are cleared and the lounge furniture, vodka luge and DJ are moved in. The ladies take off their stilettos, the guys loosen their bow ties and everyone boogies the night away. Good for the heart, too, right into the wee hours of the evening.


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