A tribute to area Floridians who have “Hearts of Gold,” the second annual combined Heart Ball for Lee and Collier Counties drew some 540 supporters who were individually welcomed by event co-chairs Linda and Bob Simpson.
Staged on April 24 at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa, the glittering gala under the presenting sponsorship of St. Jude Medical Center, was a near sellout.
As Simpson declared, “We greet everyone who comes because we care. We take it very personally that they chose to support the event.” Simpson’s own cousin, Paul McWhinnie of Lehigh Acres, is a bypass surgery survivor.
Festivities began in the ballroom foyer and adjacent auction display rooms. Taking center stage, a crimson 2010 Lexus IS350-C convertible offered on a 36-month lease donated by South Florida Lexus dealers Scanlon/Germain. Sharing the limelight, eight table settings by Collins & DuPont Interior Design and a Roberto Coin signature floating ruby/diamond necklace donated by the jeweler himself and Saks Fifth Avenue.
There was a separate solicitation for the “Gift of Love” program, which focuses on appeals not only for funding AED purchases but also the Heart Heroes initiative that supports child-and-family weekend retreats at Camp Boggy Creek. It is sponsored by Chef Norman Love, noted for his chocolate and pastry confections. Love also donated a coveted silent auction “Chocolate All Year” monthly package of sweet treats.
Apparel ran from black tie for men to long, short, strapless, bouffant and tiered worn by women. Standouts included Navy commander/helicopter Brian McDonald, dashing in mess dress blues and Fort Myers resident Gay Thompson, clad in black with red accents and carrying a scarlet, Timmy Woods Beverly Hills wooden, heart-shaped handbag with diamante clasp on annual loan from her sister.
Strategically placed cocktail bars and passed canapés fueled both conviviality and silent auction bidding during the opening reception. Once within the ballroom itself, diners sought assigned tables and sped to the dance floor where the Orlando-based Bill Allred orchestra performed until 9:30 pm when the Malones, from Gainesville, took over to provide dance music up to midnight. Decor throughout the party areas was by Pink Tangerine, headquartered in the resort lobby.
NBC-2 news anchor Kellie Burns and colleague meteorologist Robert Van Winkle both emceed and conducted the spirited live auction that featured several travel packages including a week-long vacation at a Grand Bahamas holiday home favored by actor Orlando Bloom.
A program highlight was the announcement and presentation of the annual Dr. Pascotto Golden Heart Award for his continuing contributions to improving heart health within the Southwest Florida community to Dr. Richard Chazal. A cardiologist with the Heart Group, the physician is the third annual recipient.
According to the American Heart Association Greater Southeast Affiliate, the net total of funds raised reached $395,000. Tickets were priced at $400 per person.