Whimsy and Wishes at the Make-a-Wish Ball

Posted by Maryanne Salvat On November - 16 - 2017

By:  Dr. Mary Jo Almeida-Shore

It was a night of magic, music, mysticism and wish granting as the Make-A-Wish® Southern Florida and InterContinental® Miami celebrated the 23rd Annual InterContinental® Miami Make-A-Wish® Ball on Saturday, November 4, 2017. More than 900 guests attended the “Mystical Music Box” themed gala, which presented a night of enchantment, fantasy and music. The magical celebration was headlined by four time Grammy-award winning, multi-platinum-selling artist Lenny Kravitz, and presented by the Makarov Foundation and the Finker-Frenkel Legacy Foundation, with opening act by Alisan Porter, winner of NBC’s The Voice 2016who returned for the second year. 

Actress and filmmaker Gabrielle Anwar, who costars on the ABC drama “Once Upon a Time,” returned as celebrity emcee for the seventh consecutive year, helping the event to raise in excess of $2.3 million for Make-A-Wish® Southern Florida. Hosted by the InterContinental® Miami, Ball founder and in-kind donor for the past 23 years, the event was chaired by philanthropist Shareef Malnik, Chairman of the Board of Directors for Make-A-Wish® Southern Florida, who has served as Ball Chairman for the past 13 years. The annual Ball, which is regarded as one of Miami charity season’s leading events, is the highest grossing fundraising event for the Southern Florida Chapter of Make-A-Wish® Foundation. 

Upon arriving at the red carpet, guests were greeted by mod mannequins dressed in black and white ruffled egg-shaped mini dresses posing in shadow boxes, along with a six-foot “Pink Dream Horse” statue by artist and long-time Make-A-Wish® Southern Florida supporter Romero Britto, the latter one of the live auction items. Welcoming guests were the Ball’s “Three Amigos” – Shareef Malnik, Chairman of the Board of Directors for Make-A-Wish® Southern Florida, Gala Chair of the InterContinental® Miami Make-A-Wish® Ball, and proprietor of The Forge Restaurant | Wine Bar; Robert Hill, Gala Host and General Manager of InterContinental® Miami; and Norman Wedderburn, President and CEO of Make-A-Wish® Southern Florida.

The lavish cocktail reception featured premium cocktails and culinary specialties at elaborate gourmet stations, several raw bars and sushi bars. A clandestine speakeasy, accessible through its own entrance on the mezzanine, was decorated with a Mondrian color scheme and Andy Warhol-esque Brillo boxes. With DJ Michelle Leshem keeping the groove going, guests enjoyed the raw seafood bar with stone crabs, lobster and shrimp and cocktails in an intimate lounge setting. The Ball’s famed silent auction, which co-existed with the cocktail reception, offered hundreds of premier items and experiences, donated by InterContinental® Hotels & Resorts worldwide as well as leading entertainment, fashion and luxury brands.


In what has become a Ball tradition, a procession summoned guests to the Grand Ballroom for dinner. This year, a 150-foot-long wraparound runway was transformed into a stage backlit with a wall of video art with dancers performing to “What a Feeling” and “Fame,” orchestrated by the Ball’s production agency, DECO Productions.

An entranceway featuring music box dancers en pointe welcomed guests Inside the candle-lit ballroom, table-scapes of black and white fabrics were contrasted and complemented by sculptural floral centerpieces created by Bayfront Flora along with a 144-ft LED Wall produced by Mauricio Ferrazza and executed by PSAV who produced all video, lighting and technology for the evening. Famed DJ Irie kept the beat going, leading up to another Ball tradition, Shareef and Gabrielle’s creative dramatic moment to begin the evening. After welcoming the crowd, Shareef wound a Magical, Mystical Music Box that sat onstage, which opened to reveal a beautiful dancing doll – Gabrielle, but of course.

Fourteen-year-old Wish kid Sage Escalante, who was diagnosed with cancer when she was 12, took the stage and performed two original songs on ukulele, enchanting the crowd. She was joined by Wish Kid Madison White, whose wish for a horse was the 11,000th wish granted in Make-A-Wish Southern Florida history. This set the stage for the wish auction, with Gabrielle using her magic touch to entice donations while guests dined on an artistic, elegant dinner created by InterContinental Miami Executive Chef Klaus Happel  — Seafood, Composition of stone crab claw, jumbo shrimp and crab meat salad; bone- in Beef Tenderloin with chipotle sweet potatoes and seasonal vegetables; and a spherical passion fruit chocolate mousse – edible modern art in keeping with the night’s theme.

Alisan Porter, winner of The Voice 2016, returned for the second year as opening act, her renditions of “Desperado” and “Cry Bay” bluesy, soulful and powerful – the perfect segue to the night’s live auction.  Lenny Kravitz. took the stage next, accompanied by his 13-piece band and back-up singers, giving guests an unforgettable 45-minute concert as he launched into a set of his chart-topping hits including “American Woman, “Are You Gonna Go Your Own Way” and “It Ain’t Over ‘Til it’s Over,” at one point jumping on top of a table and singing in true rock star fashion – an incredible, epic moment in the Ball’s history.


The Ball continued into the night at the 10th Annual InterContinental® Miami Make-A-Wish® Nightclub, presented by E11EVEN MIAMI. The reception space was transformed into a nightclub format, and featured none other than hip-hop producer and artist Snoop Dogg. An electric 1980’s inspired runway show followed, curated by Saks Fifth Avenue Brickell City Centre, showcasing the holiday collection. There were references to David Bowie and Grace Jones, as models paraded the 150-foot wraparound runway in the season’s trends, including plenty of rainbow sequins, fringe, feathers and plaid. Models were coifed by in-kind donor Danny Jelaca of Danny Jelaca Hair, with makeup by Beauty for Real by Leslie Munsell.

Every glamorous aspect of the extravagant evening was underwritten by the Chairman’s Challenge Society, which Shareef Malnik founded in 2011 as an operating cost endowment to cover all expenses associated with organizing and planning the InterContinental® Miami Make-A-Wish® Ball. For more information on Chairman’s Challenge Society, please visit http://sfla.wish.org/ways-to-help/giving/chairmans-society.

In its 23-year history, the InterContinental® Miami Make-A-Wish® Ball has raised more than $23.3 million, granting the wishes of more than 4,300 children from South Florida. The $1 million donation by Al and Nancy Malnik in 2012 remains the single highest donation of record. Over the past 23 years, the InterContinental® Miami has donated the in-kind value to underwrite the Ball’s food, beverage, parking accommodations and venue expenses, in addition to dedicating more than 9,500  management hours that have gone into the Ball’s planning.

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