By: Mary Jo Almeida-Shore
Hearts and Stars Shining Bright
It was fitting that the moon shone brighter than it has in 18 years over the Hearts and Stars Gala benefitting the Little Lighthouse Foundation, an organization designed to brighten the lives of South Florida children and families. It seemed the moon wanted to get close to the 800 generous guests who joined co-chairs Rob Sena, RS Schmitt and Aaron Resnick or to stars such as designer, Luis Valenzuela; singer/songwriter, Shelly Renee, singing star, Nadia Harris, and ebullient local celeb, Buster Cox, at the posh, waterfront Shangri La, (formerly Casa Malinka), home of George Wallner. Notable guests including: Melky Jean, Kenny McCraney, Dana and Gary Shear, Michael Gongora, Michael Valdes, Malinka Max, Marnie Howard, Eric and Stacy Milon, and Brittany Rawlings to name a few, mingled poolside while enjoying bites from area restaurants, cocktails courtesy of Grey Goose vodka, a fashion presentation and silent auction. Rob Sena shared the following, “We are thrilled with the support of the community and the success of our event. With the proceeds, we are able to further expand the LLF’s programs and reach into the South Florida Community.” The Little Lighthouse Foundation accepts donations beyond events. Donation checks can be mailed to: The Little Lighthouse Foundation, 100 North Biscayne Blvd., Suite 1607, Miami, FL 33132.
Pitbull Wows at WOT
Across the bridge, also on Saturday night, the Women of Tomorrow (WOT) Gala took place at the Mandarin Oriental with close to 500 of Miami’s leading philanthropists in attendance, most of who have participated in this elegant celebration for ten years. Founders Jennifer Valoppi and Telemundo president Don Browne, along with Gala Chair Marisa Toccin and WOT Vice-President and State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, created a special evening in celebration of creating awareness for Florida’s at-risk young women.
Making this year’s event truly unforgettable was recording artist, Pitbull, (random, we know) who added a whole new layer to the gala. A guest of Don Browne’s, it was the star’s first time attending and his appearance was kept a surprise until he appeared during the first course of the seated dinner. Excited guests pulled out their iPhones and BlackBerry cameras as soon as they realized that Pitbull was the “big” surprise guest.
While on stage, Pitbull only performed a brief intro to his hit “Bon Bon” before making his remarks about Women of Tomorrow, to the dismay of a few fans who were hoping he would sing his hit “Tiene Tremendo C*LO,” to the many Cuban ladies who have just THAT. We laugh just picturing the looks on the faces of the social elite…”He said what???!!”
On a serious note, Pitbull spoke about the importance of organizations such as WOT, especially in his “hometown, the 305,” noting the positive effects of working with young people, which shapes the future of the community.
Guests dined on lobster and steak and danced to the great music by the band, Soul Survivors, and the DJ (part of the band), who kept his songs playing while he worked the room and took photos with guests. The music set a lively mood and got much of the crowd up on the dance floor early and wondering if he will be back next year.
In attendance were the evening’s distinguished honorees: Honorary Chairpersons, Bruce and Tracey Berkowitz and The Fairholme Foundation, Legacy Builder Honoree Cesar L. Alvarez, Empowerment Award Honoree Alberto Ibarguen, with wife, Susan Ibarguen, and the John. S. & James L. Knight Foundation, Humanitarian Chairs Christian de Berdouare and Dr. Eugene and Suzie Sayfie, Mentor of the Year Dr. Randy Schenkman and Excellence Honoree Ingrid Fatio, with husband, Jean-Louis Fatio.
Among the VIPs also in attendance helping to raise more than $400,000 for WOT, were Fran and Mel Harris, Tara Solomon and Nick D’Annunzio, Lola Jacobson, Cindy Carr, Lora and Fred Drasner, Jose and Brenda Diaz-Balart, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Karen Piazza, Swanee and Paul DiMare, Ferne and Daniel Toccin, Frances and Eugenio Sevilla-Sacasa, Princess Thi-Nga of Vietnam, Laura Buccellati, Gustavo Novoa, Mark and Alison Zhuk, Ana-Marie Codina Barlick and Robert Barlick, Neki Mohan and Jason Martinez, Mohammed Abdulaziz and Zona Zaric.
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