During the ball’s opening reception on April 17 at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point, the amiable redhead posed for endless photos with the nearly 280 black-tied or begowned revelers on hand to celebrate his 20 years of presiding over area fundraisers. After all, funding for operating expenses at his namesake Ronald McDonald House and the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile of Collier County was the goal of the gala where he was later presented with a candlelit cake.
Interest in silent auction items was high as bidders jostled one another in jotting down proffered dollar amounts while enjoying cocktails and passed canapés. Evening wine sponsors were Don and Cary Randall and Bruce and Laura Ragain. A number of the tempting displays reflected the evening’s theme based on the “Toy Story” film. Bidding was especially competitive among those eagerly seeking gift items appropriate for their own children or grandchildren.
Within the ballroom, Eventz, Inc., Fort Myers-based function coordinators, had continued the theme utilizing rising centerpieces that incorporated elements based on the storied adventures of an animated cowboy, a space ranger and accompanying, colorful toys.
Moving opening remarks during dinner sparked compassionate interest in the fact that families including not only parents but also siblings mainly residents in Collier, Lee, Glades, Charlotte and Hendry counties are accommodated at the Ronald McDonald House in Fort Myers while their seriously ailing children are treated at the adjacent Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida.
In contrast to excessive hotel rates, families are asked for only $10 per night’s stay at these houses now operating around the globe and supported by thousands of volunteers who annually donate more than three million hours of assistance. As no one is ever turned away due to their inability to pay, $10-a-night donation pledge forms were available on all tables to fund such needs.
In a quick switch of tempo, George “Brownie” Black — he and wife Sue are long-standing house volunteers — assumed live auctioneering duties with Ronald serving as his aide. The three items at auction: an at-home dining experience with Chef Reiner Drygala of Bistro 41 and musical entertainment by Danny Morgan; a gold-and-diamond drop pendant from Gulfcoast Coin and Jewelry; and a cruise for two aboard a five-star Holland America Line ship.
The Bob Gaffney Group drew seemingly the entire assemblage, including Ronald McDonald himself who turned out to be an outstanding twinkle toes to the dance floor. As Carey Randall, board of directors president, said, “I can’t ever remember when people have obviously had such a good time!”
The event, hosted by Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southwest Florida and co-chaired by Heidi Frederic and Bob Meisenheimer, brought in an estimated net total of just over $80,000 according to Executive Director Laura Ragain. Tickets were priced at $250 per person.