Trustees of SWFL Children’s Charities with a ceremonial check marking how much the group has raised over the past decade to help area kids.

Along the Gulfshore


Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest Grants $1.79 Million

It remains Lee County’s largest fundraiser.

Back in February, the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest celebrated its 11th season of mixing fine American wines, food from our top area chefs and fundraising. The live auction had more than 225 bidders vying for 37 prizes that included rare vintages and one-of-a-kind experiences.

It was also a year of change. Held for the first time at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa on Feb. 24, it was just one day instead of two. The biggest shift, however, was the decision by SWFL Children’s Charities, the incorporated nonprofit that runs it, to tweak the philanthropic focus. What started off a decade ago as mainly a fundraising vehicle to propel the construction of the Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida has grown beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Widened to include donations to groups serving Lee County youth, such as Florida Gulf Coast University and Florida SouthWestern State College, for 2019, the festival decided to cover the entire five-county region as well as concentrate giving on groups dedicated to children’s mental and behavioral health.

Bill Toler celebrates during the 2019 Live Auction

Now, several months later, SWFL Children’s Charities presented 14 beneficiaries with a total of $1.79 million in grants from what had been raised. Among the organizations that received money were Blessings in a Backpack (providing meals to food-insecure children), Lighthouse of SWFL (aiding the visually impaired—the grant will be used to develop an after-school sports program), Valerie’s House (supporting grieving families), Make-A-Wish Southern Florida (granting wishes to the critically ill) and Hope Kids Care (counseling for families of children with complex medical conditions).

The 2020 event has already been announced—it will be held again at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa on Feb. 20, 2020—and to learn more about the grand tasting, live auction and beneficiaries of the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest, Lee County’s largest annual fundraiser, visit swflwinefest.org.