Magical Moments with the Make-A-Wish Foundation

Posted by Maryanne Salvat On September - 18 - 2014

Gabrielle Anwar, Norman Wedderburn, Shareef Malnik, Lee Schrager, & Robert HillBy: Dr. Mary Jo Almeida-Shore

Much like the scene in the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy sets foot inside the Technicolor Land of Oz, revelers were amazed upon entering last Thursday evening’s magical 20th Annual InterContinental® Miami Make-A-Wish Ball kick-off celebration at the InterContinental Miami. We were transported into a whimsical world created by Deco Productions, that transformed the Hotel’s Chopin Ballroom from top-to-bottom into an Oz-themed fantasy, complete with oversized wheel barrels, cool bars with all sorts of potions and elixers, a Fred Flintstone-esque prime rib station, a Tin Man trapped in a block of ice, and, of course, Red designer shoes – in tribute to Dorothy’s ruby slippers The outlandish décor and palpable excitement provided a glimpse of what’s to come at the highly anticipated “Oz-reimagined” 20th anniversary gala taking place on Saturday, November 1, at the InterContinental Miami. Although guests will have to wait for the gala for a special onstage performance by the legendary Diana Ross, there was no shortage of entertainment at the kick-off party. Just as we were delighting in exquisite cuisine prepared by Executive Sous Chef Jhonnatan Contreras, we spied a commotion towards the front of the ballroom, accompanied by Katie Perry’s, “Dark Horse.” We rushed over to find a fully-choreographed, theatrical performance featuringdancers dressed as avant-garde witches and Oz-inspired, human trees in towering, macabre costumes.

Chef Contreras created elaborate food stations with clever names such as “Munchkin Land” (sushi) and “Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers” (a plethora of sweets). Themed stations included an extensive seafood raw bar, carving station, cheese/fruits/crudite’ area and luxe burger grill featuring a trio of Kobe beef, chicken and quinoa sliders. Partygoers enjoyed wine by Rioja Wines, classic cocktails and champagne throughout the evening. Ruby slipper-themed mini-cupcakes courtesy of Robert Onuska, owner of Stella’s Sweet Shoppe, were given to all guests as a take-away gift.


Welcoming guests were Robert Hill, Gala Host and General Manager of the InterContinental Miami; Shareef Malnik, Gala Chairman, philanthropist and proprietor of The Forge Restaurant | Wine Bar; and Norman Wedderburn, President/CEO of Make-A-Wish® Southern Florida, aka: the “Three Amigos.” Actress/filmmaker Gabrielle Anwar, who will be serving as the Ball’s celebrity emcee for the fourth consecutive year, arrived with her three children – all of whom made a bee-line for the magical “Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers” candy and sweets display. Other notable attendees included Lee Brian Schrager – original founding member and steering committee chairman of the InterContinental Miami Make-A-Wish Ball; Marshall Ames, Lady Monica Heftler,Eugene Frenkel, Neil Gonzalez, Todd Linden, Andrew Mandala, Joseph Perez, Brett Rose and Jerry Gutierrez; Richard Weissman, Leann Standish, Aaron Resnick, Nicole Lozano, Dan and Merle Weiss,Irene Korge, Tara Solomon and Nick D’Annunzio. But the sweetest sight of all was the smile on the face of 6-year-old Make-a-Wish Child Gelly San Juan, a cancer survivor, who attended along with parents Ramon and Jennifer, and sister and brother, Kayela and Angel. 

t was announced that Neiman Marcus Bal Harbour will be the official fashion sponsor of the InterContinental Miami Make-A-Wish Nightclub, which immediately follows the Ball – presenting a fashion show of over-the-top, Oz-inspired looks by couture designers.  Tickets for the InterContinental Miami Make-A-Wish Nightclub are $100, and may be purchased at  Of note: elaborate kick-off event was fully underwritten, as it has been in all years past, by InterContinental Miami.


The mission of Make-A-Wish® Southern Florida is to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy. In its 20-year history, the InterContinental Miami Make-A-Wish Ball has raised in excess of $14 million. With these much needed funds, the Foundation has been able to grant more than 3,000 wishes for deserving children in our community. Past VIP guests of the Ball have included Gabrielle Anwar, Paula Abdul, Sharon Stone, Kim Kardashian, Wayne Newton, Don King, Helio Castroneves, Robert Van Winkle, Christian Slater, Pamela Anderson, former Florida governor Scottie and Larsa Pippen, Russell Simmons, Venus and Serena Williams, Don King, Sex in the City’s Candace Bushnell, Marcus Schenkenberg, Pauly Shore, and performers Adam Lambert, Joan Jett, Macy Gray, Natalie Cole, Wyclef Jean, Bernadette Peters, Melanie Amaro, the late Nell Carter, Deborah Gibson, and The Honey Brothers, featuring Adrian Grenier. For more information, please visit

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