This article was originally written by Karen Rosenberg and published on Feb 22, 2014 at NaplesNews.com.
When all was said and done, the Southwest Florida Food & Wine Festival raised more than $2.5 million in support of the SWFL Children’s Charities, inc. whose primary beneficiary is the Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.
Perhaps the most exciting auction lot of the day wasn’t really a lot at all, but a donation. The “gift” associated with the Lifesaving Lot was the gift of helping children.
Before asking some 375 attendees to pen their wallets and checkbooks for a good cause, Dr. Eric Eason addressed the group. As a pediatric cardiologist who recently relocated from Miami, Eason’s goal, along with Golisano Children’s Hospital, is to create a state of the art pediatric cardiology unit in Southwest Florida.
Fitzgerald said it would take $400,000 in donations to get Eason and his team stocked up on the supplies they need, and to sustain it for five years.
They raised $450,000 in about 10 minutes.
Starting the ball rolling were two huge donations, two couples each pledged $50,000 apiece, or a total of $200,000 within the first minute. Then, as the number surpassed $250,000 with smaller donations, one couple said if the room got to $300,000, they would donate $100,000 to bring it to $400,000, which happened soon thereafter, and the donations kept coming in until they reached $450,000.
It is humbling to consider what the donors are thinking, and what it means to each of them,” Eason said. They are personally providing lifesaving equipment to the children, it is an amazing thing, he explained.
-4 p.m. Update-
Trustee and event co-chair Dorothy Fitzgerald can’t wait for the auction to begin.
She said the vintner dinners last night served about 300 people and all the food and wine served since the event began today have been excellent and now she’s ready for guests to consume all the action that comes with the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest each year.
“The auction this year is off the hook,” Fitzgerald said. “We have 35 lots, all donated, put together. We have life experiences, travel and other one of a kind events tht give people the chance to give back. And the most important thing is 100 percent of what we raise here today goes directly to the charities.”
Todd Gates of Skansa Gates, who is building the Golisano Children’s Hospital, also is a trustee and the primary sponsor of the event. All 14 trustees also pay $10,000 apiece to underwrite the event.
“It’s going to be the coolest, highest energy thing you’ve ever been to,” Gates said. “Between the Baltimore Raven Cheerleaders and the good wine and people who care about children, it’s the perfect storm.”
The group already has raised $8.9 million and hopes to get that to $10 million quickly. While organizers won’t put a dollar amount they are looking to raise between the 35 auction lots, they say every penny goes to a good cause.
The funds will be split between three recipients: The Golisano Children’s Hospital, which Gates says will “go vertical,” on April 23; Edison State College’s pediatric nursing program and Florida Gulf Coast University.
The children’s hospital is so important because it will be the first pediatric hospital between Miami and Tampa. Dr. Eric Eason, a pedeatric cardiologist, addressed the crowd saying, “the only reason I want to send a child to Miami is for salsa.”
-1 p.m. Update by Katherine Rosenberg-
I just sat down with auctioneers Beth and Sara Rose, a mother and daughter duo whose family auctioneering business, Rose Auction Group, has been going strong for 40 years.
While they aren’t running the auction today, the pair came in support of friend Scott Robertson, who is.
Sara Rose lives locally and her mother, from the Toledo, Ohio area, wouldn’t miss a chance to attend the now world-renowned event and to visit her daughter. The pair are part of the largest female auctioneer company in the nation.
Beth Rose said the best part about being an auctioneer is that you can change a life in a minute. When you are raising money for a charity, and you can facilitate all that action and tell your clients you exceeded the goals, “that’s what being an auctioneer is all about,” she said.
Sara Rose recently came in as runner-up in the Florida Auctioneering competition, and today’s auctioneer Steve Robertson is a former winner. Sara Rose said it takes more than good bid calls to win, it’s all about personality, which her friend Robertson has plenty of.
During the outdoor food tasting, the pair spent time chatting with members of the Baltimore Ravens cheerleading squad as well.
About 500 people are expected to attend sixth annual Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest auction today from noon to 4 p.m. at Miromar Lakes Beach & Golf Club.
Daily News reporter Kate Rosenberg and news clerk Kalhan Rosenblatt will be providing real-time updates from the event.
There will be 35 lots up for an auction including a private jet trip and prime seats to three baseball games this summer at Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium and Wrigley Field, plus luxury accommodations.
Other lots are tickets to the 2015 Grammy Awards; VIP seats in August to the National Hot Rod Association Nationals in Minnesota; and dozens of luxurious trips to destinations such as Aspen, Napa Valley, Italy, Spain, Africa and Southeast Asia.