PierSide Grill and Famous Blowfish Bar donates $1,000 to support Fort Myers Beach Fourth of July firework celebration

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PierSide Grill and Famous Blowfish Bar on Fort Myers Beach recently donated $1,000 to benefit the community production of the annual Fort Myers Beach Fourth of July firework celebration.

The Fort Myers Beach community is working hard to raise $25,000 to fund the annual production of the Fort Myers Beach Fourth of July firework display, and their goal is within reach. The charge is led by the FMB Fireworks Fund, a committee of business owners and residents on Fort Myers Beach who have stepped forward to assist in offsetting the expenses for the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve fireworks shows on Fort Myers Beach.

PierSide Grill and Famous Blowfish Bar has supported the community’s fundraising efforts throughout the year by hosting several fundraisers and offering fundraising drink specials to benefit the annual firework production.

“The biannual firework displays are a special tradition that the Fort Myers Beach community enjoys on the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve,” said Martin York, managing partner of PierSide Grill and Famous Blowfish Bar. “We are happy to take part in supporting this community effort, and we encourage others to join the cause to help keep this firework show alive on Fort Myers Beach.”

For more information, or to donate to the FMB Fireworks Fund, visit www.gofundme.com/fmb-fireworks-fund.

Located on Fort Myers Beach directly next to the public pier in Times Square, PierSide Grill and Famous Blowfish Bar is a family-friendly restaurant featuring award-winning food, drinks and sunsets. Open seven days a week from 11 a.m. – 11 p.m., PierSide Grill and Famous Blowfish Bar serves lunch and dinner daily, and happy hour from 3 – 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. For more information, visit www.PierSideGrill.com.

2016 Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest raises more than $2.8 million and counting to benefit pediatric health care

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Photo 1SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc.’s 2016 Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest has raised more than $2.8 million and counting, with 100 percent of the proceeds directly benefitting pediatric health care in Southwest Florida. Made possible by title sponsor Pitbladdo Holdings, LLC, the two-day signature fundraising event featured Chef Vintner Dinners on Feb. 26 and The Grand Tasting & Live Auction on Feb. 27, where more than 300 came together at Miromar Lakes Beach & Golf Club to raise money for SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc.’s beneficiaries, Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, and pediatric programs and scholarships at Florida Gulf Coast University and Florida SouthWestern State College. Following The Grand Tasting & Live Auction, festivities concluded with a Relax & Re-Wine After Party at SS Hookers Waterfront Restaurant, hosted by the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest co-chairs Sandy Stilwell and Andie Vogt, which featured a live performance from award-winning country music entertainer and singer songwriter Billy Dean & Steel Horses.

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The highlight of the event was the Live Auction, which featured a selection of more than 40 exclusive domestic and international getaways, delectable wine and culinary offerings, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences to be auctioned off to the highest bidders, with 100 percent of the proceeds to benefit SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc.’s beneficiaries.

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“We are blown away by the generosity and kindness of the many guests, donors, sponsors, vintners, chefs and volunteers that participated in the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest, and we are so grateful for all who came together to show their support of SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc., our beneficiaries and the countless children that will be impacted by the funds raised during this event,” said Sandy Stilwell, co-chair of the 2016 Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest. “The success of this year’s event is all thanks to the wonderful supporters who have shared their time and resources to support this cause, and simple words cannot express our gratitude for the many amazing individuals within our Southwest Florida community,” added event co-chair Andie Vogt.

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The most anticipated item up for bid during the Live Auction was the Cliff Williams and Mark Loren auction lot, featuring a signed bass guitar played by Cliff Williams, AC/DC bassist and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, and a one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry of an AC/DC guitar pick pendant adorned with diamonds and gems, suspended from an original Williams’ bass guitar string, created by international award-winning custom jewelry designer, Mark Loren. This highly coveted lot went for a total of $140,000 at the Wine & Food Fest, the highest single bid of the afternoon.

The once-in-a-lifetime package that received the most attention from auction-goers was an exclusive four-night trip for four people to the Bahamas, where the winning bidder will have the opportunity to enjoy a round of golf and day of fishing with Justin Rose, the 2013 U.S. Open Champion and current #7 world-ranked professional golfer. After an intense competition amongst bidders, the auction closed with a winning bid of $100,000. Multiple international travel packages were also among the most popular auction lots. A classic African safari featuring 13 days in Kenya and Tanzania went for $55,000.

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The Southwest Florida recreation of the James Beard House-style gourmet dining experience was a popular item amongst auction-goers, raising $100,000. With bids of $5,000 per couple, 20 couples reserved their seats at Sea Salt Restaurant in Naples on Oct. 30, 2016, where they will enjoy an exclusive evening of culinary distinction, hosted by Southwest Florida’s award-winning chefs, Chef Fabrizio Aielli of Sea Salt, Chef Harold Balink of Harold’s, Chef Todd Johnson of Rumrunners and Chef Norman Love of Norman Love Confections.

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Generous vintner donors doubled their original donations to the Live Auction, allowing additional bidders to compete for an exclusive experience. A trip to Napa Valley for a five-night stay for eight at Gamble Family Vineyards was donated a second time, bringing in a total of $80,000 between the two bids. Honored Signature Vintner, Williams Selyem Winery, also donated another trip for guests to become winemakers for a day, with a three-night trip for four to Williams Selyem Winery, which raised a total of $40,000. In addition, Carter Cellars doubled their donation of a three-night wine country journey in Napa Valley and Humboldt County for four people including dinners, tours and tastings at Hotel Carter in Eurkea and Envy Wines, as well as original artwork by Sherri Carter. Sold twice, the Carter Cellars “Art of Wine” package went for a total of $40,000.

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In addition to the fun and excitement of the afternoon, the Live Auction also featured heartfelt examples of the event’s impact on children in Southwest Florida. As a young patient of Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, 2016 Child Artist Avery McCaskill’s touching story brought the room to tears, as her mother shared their unique experience with Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida and SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc.’s child artist program. Young Avery’s one-of-a-kind painting of an owl raised $150,000 for Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida. Her work of art will be put on display at the hospital for patients and visitors to enjoy.

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Dozens of enthusiastic attendees also raised their paddles to show their support for the new Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida through SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc.’s “Fund-a-Cause” initiative, “A Million Reasons to Give.”  To date, a record-setting total of more than $800,000 has been raised to help Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida provide the special surgical instruments and communication and monitoring technology that a state-of-the-art children’s hospital needs to effectively serve its patients. Donations of $100 and more continue to be accepted online, at swflwinefest.org/give-to-give/.

Dr. Amy Stanfill, pediatric surgeon at Golisano Children’s Hospital, shared her appreciation for the support of SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc. and the local community:

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“I am so thankful for the opportunity to participate in the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest, and I am honored to represent Golisano Children’s Hospital at such an inspirational event,” Dr. Stanfill said. “As a mother and a pediatric surgeon, I’m grateful to the many passionate and generous bidders. Thanks to the continued support of our community, we are better able to perform lifesaving surgeries on children in our community. This generously donated equipment can provide invaluable care and service to future generations for years to come.”

The afternoon concluded with the Pass the Hat portion of the Live Auction, where auction-goers generously added a variety of donations to the top hat, including cash, jewelry and college scholarships to FSW and FGCU, donated by the foundations of both institutions. The unique auction lot brought in a total of $60,000 at the 2016 Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest.

For more information about SWFL Children’s Charities Inc. or its annual signature fundraiser, the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest, visit www.swflwinefest.org.

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The SWFL Children’s Charities Inc.’s annual signature fundraiser, the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest, has raised $15.6 million over the past seven years, making it the most successful fundraising event in Lee County and one of the top-grossing wine fests in the country. The nonprofit, SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc. donates 100 percent of the event proceeds to three local beneficiaries. Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida is the primary beneficiary of the event, and the money raised helps to fund the building of the new family-centered children’s hospital that will provide new and expanded medical services and subspecialty services to children from Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. In addition to providing funds for the new state-of-the-art Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc. supports pediatric health care programs and provides scholarships for students at Florida SouthWestern State College and Florida Gulf Coast University. For more information, visit www.swflwinefest.org.

Support the work of Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida. Give Where You Live Collier kicks off on Feb. 29, 2016

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Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida invites the community to support its efforts to prepare young people for success in a global economy by donating to the organization through Give Where You Live Collier, Feb. 29 – March 1, 2016.

Give Where You Live Collier is a county-wide movement to celebrate and increase philanthropy in Collier County through online giving. The Community Foundation of Collier County and the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation are partnering to present Give Where You Live Collier with 40 participating nonprofit organizations in 2016. Donations are accepted through GiveWhereYouLiveCollier.org.

As a participating nonprofit, Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida will benefit from Give Where You Live Collier in many ways.

“The donations we receive through Give Where You Live Collier help us do more to support the community and ensure that our future generation is prepared to succeed in the business world,” said Angela Fisher, president and CEO of Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida. “Our goal is to raise $25,000 this year, which is a part of our annual operating budget. We also want to earn our share of the $400,000 matching fund.”

$400,000 Matching Fund

Thanks to the Community Foundation of Collier County and the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation, Give Where You Live Collier features a $400,000 matching fund. Every nonprofit that receives a donation from noon, Feb. 29, 2016 to noon, March 1, 2016 will receive a proportionate share of the matching fund, increasing the value of every dollar donated. For example, if Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida receives 10 percent of the total donations made through Give Where You Live Collier, Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida also receives 10 percent of the $400,000 matching fund.

“Thanks to generous members of our community and hardworking nonprofits, we expect Give Where You Live Collier to be a great success,” said Eileen Connolly-Keesler, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Collier County. “Not only the dollars raised, but the number of donors contributing to the success of the day will showcase the generosity of this community.”

For more information about Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida, please visit www.JASWFL.org. For more information about Give Where You Live Collier, please visit GiveWhereYouLiveCollier.org.

About the Community Foundation of Collier County

The Community Foundation of Collier County is a tax-exempt, public, charitable organization, established in 1985 to increase and focus private philanthropy in the area. Today, the Community Foundation of Collier County manages more than 510 funds, collaborates with more than 400 nonprofits, holds more than $106 million in assets and has distributed more than $88 million in grants to nonprofit organizations and community programs. It is one of Florida’s fastest growing community foundations. Learn more at cfcollier.org.

About the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation

The Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation was founded in 2004 by Best Buy founder, Dick Schulze, as a way to give back to the community. Schulze and his family believe that a good education, a supportive family and a strong work ethic prepare children for a successful future. To support that belief, the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation supports education and basic human services, among other types of organizations. It is the vision of the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation to connect in a meaningful way with grantees to make strategic contributions that achieve specific, measurable outcomes.

About Junior Achievement USA® (JA):

Junior Achievement is the world’s largest organization dedicated to giving young people the knowledge and skills they need to own their economic success, plan for their future, and make smart academic and economic choices. JA of Southwest Florida programs are delivered to students in Collier, Lee and Charlotte counties by corporate and community volunteers, and provide relevant, hands-on experiences that give students from kindergarten through high school knowledge and skills in financial literacy, work readiness and entrepreneurship. Today, JA reaches more than 4.6 million students per year in 113 markets across the United States, with an additional 5.6 million students served by operations in 118 other countries worldwide. Junior Achievement USA is a member of JA Worldwide. Visit www.JA.org for more information. For more information about JA of Southwest Florida visit www.JASWFL.org, call 239-225-2590 or info@jaswfl.org.

Conservancy of Southwest Florida launches new website design

Conservancy LogoThe Conservancy of Southwest Florida has launched its redesigned website at www.Conservancy.org. The mobile-friendly website offers users a more enhanced website experience, providing deeper insight into its various initiatives, valued team members and the latest issues impacting Southwest Florida. The website also offers a multimedia-friendly platform that features the addition of continually updated slideshows, blogs and videos.

Featuring easy-to-access information on the organization’s mission, initiatives, programs and upcoming events, the revamped website is dedicated to providing guests an all-inclusive look into the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. In addition to learning about the many services offered at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, guests can also learn more about the organization’s Policy and Advocacy Team, Science and Research Team and Environmental Education Team, and their work within the community. With links to the organization’s Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest pages, guests can easily stay up-to-date on the latest news at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. Visitors also have the opportunity to learn more about volunteer and membership opportunities, along with other ways of supporting the organization, including one-time or monthly donations and planned giving.

“The website’s new features offer our community the opportunity to learn more about who we are as an organization and what our goals are in preserving our water, land, wildlife and future in Southwest Florida,” said Rob Moher, president and CEO of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. “We are pleased to offer our guests a more enhanced website experience, and look forward to sharing more about what the Conservancy does to maintain the natural beauty of the Southwest Florida community for generations to come.”

For more information about the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, call 239-262-0304 or visit www.Conservancy.org.

About the Conservancy of Southwest Florida:

The Conservancy of Southwest Florida is a not-for-profit environmental protection organization with a 50 year history focused on the issues impacting the water, land wildlife and future of Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Conservancy accomplishes this mission through the combined efforts of its experts in the areas of environmental science, policy, education and wildlife rehabilitation. The Conservancy of Southwest Florida, world-class Nature Center and von Arx Wildlife Hospital are headquartered in Naples, Florida, 1495 Smith Preserve Way, south of the Naples Zoo off Goodlette-Frank Road. Learn more about the Conservancy’s work and how to support the quality of life in Southwest Florida www.conservancy.org.

Pure Florida offers Cruise for Kids to benefit Lee and Collier county schools

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Pure Florida invites the Southwest Florida community to join in supporting the school districts of Lee and Collier counties by hosting Cruise for Kids Jan. 15-17 at its Fort Myers location and Jan. 22-24 at its Naples location, with cruises setting sail at 10 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and sunset cruises departing one hour before sunset. Cruise for Kids at its Fort Myers location will benefit The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools and its Naples location will support Champions for Learning™, the education foundation in Collier County. During each location’s Cruise for Kids weekend, Pure Florida will donate a portion of the proceeds from any of Pure Florida’s cruises or activities to the foundations to fund tools and resources for teachers and students.

“As another school semester commences, Pure Florida understands that budgets can be limiting and that many teachers are pulling from their own pockets to create a quality learning environment for their students. This is why the Pure Education program at Pure Florida is dedicated to supporting local educators and their students,” said Lance Julian, co-founder of Pure Florida. “The funds raised during Cruise for Kids will support Pure Education’s mission to provide the tools and resources that are essential to creating an exceptional educational experience, and empower teachers and schools to continue making a difference in the lives and futures of Southwest Florida students.”

Pure Florida’s Pure Education program focuses on enhancing educational programming and outreach that teach students about the natural Southwest Florida environment, inspire commitment to preservation efforts and encourage future environmental scientists and marine biologists. Pure Education offers Marine Science Field Trips, which feature a hands-on opportunity for Pre-K – sixth grade students. Marine Science Field Trip options include approximately 1.5-hour and 2-hour educational cruises, sailing from Pure Florida’s Naples and Fort Myers locations. During these cruises, children work in groups to test the quality of local waterways for phosphate, nitrate, pH, salinity, turbidity and other related activities depending on length of cruise and grade level. Schools can also include engineering challenges, such as “Float Your Boat” and “Submersibles” for students to participate in. Marine Science Field Trips are $15 per child and $15 per adult chaperones with free admission for teachers. All programming is coordinated with the Next Generation Florida Sunshine State Science Standards, and curriculum outlines with vocabulary and ideas for additional activities are provided to each teacher.

Pure Florida offers a variety of marine experiences that showcase the natural beauty of Southwest Florida including sightseeing, river and sunset cruises, popular with passengers of all ages. Tours are guided by Coast Guard-certified captains, also master naturalists, highlighting Southwest Florida and the unique wildlife native to this region. In addition to its cruises, Pure Florida offers eco-shelling-dolphin tours, fishing trips and charters, jet boat thrill rides, boat rentals, and Jet Ski rentals and tours. The M/V Double Sunshine departs from the historic Tin City, located at 1200 Fifth Ave. S. in Naples and the M/V Edison Explorer departs from The Marina at Edison Ford, located at 2360 W. First St. in Fort Myers. For more information on Pure Florida and its cruises, visit www.PureFL.com.

The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools is a private 501(c)(3) organization established in 1986. Its mission is to enhance and enrich the quality of public education in Lee County for students and educators through programs, resources and experiences made possible through corporate, individual and educational partnerships. For more information on The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools, visit www.LeeSchoolFoundation.org.

Champions for Learning™, the education foundation in Collier County, was founded in 1990, and is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that makes it possible for our community to impact lives by enriching the environment for learning through educators and directly with students. For more information on Champions for Learning™, visit www.ChampionsForLearning.org.

About Pure Florida

In 2009, father-and-son duo Captains Lance and Harry Julian acquired the Naples-based Double Sunshine and Lady Brett fishing vessel, and have grown the company to include 19 vessels and two locations providing a variety of unique eco-excursions for its visitors that incorporate maritime history, tourism, sightseeing and entertainment. With locations in Naples and Fort Myers, the water attraction company offers sunset and specialty cruises as well as boat and Jet Ski rentals, fishing charters, group events and educational field trips for schools and students. In addition to Pure Florida, the founders are also partners in Marine Team International and Pure Image Productions, providing professional marine consulting, television and video production and photography services. With a long history in maritime productions, Lance and Harry Julian have helped to create some of the most memorable water scenes in film production, with credits including “Titanic” and “Waterworld,” and television credits such as the reality show, “Survivor.” As the fifth and sixth generation working within the maritime industry, Lance and Harry Julian enjoy sharing their passion and expertise with fellow adventurers in the Southwest Florida area. For more information, visit www.PureFL.com or call its Naples location at 239-263-4949 or its Fort Myers location at 239-919-2965.

Minto Communities presents second quarter donation to Builders Care

Minto Communities, a premier builder and developer in Southwest Florida and beyond, has been awarded the “Building Partner of the Year” award by Lee BIA Builders Care for its continued support of Builders Care.  As a certified building partner, Minto Communities is donating $100 from each home sale through its Bonita Isles community to Builders Care, providing funding to assist the organization in helping local homeowners in need of renovations. In addition, Minto Communities is donating its services and resources to complete a residential renovation project for a qualifying homeowner in Lee County in 2016. To date, Minto Communities has supported Builders Care with over $17,400 in financial donation resulting from home sales.Builders Care-Minto Communities Award

“We believe in helping our community and we believe in the mission of Builders Care.  We are looking forward to helping out through our industry,” said William Bullock, senior vice president, Minto Communities-Florida.

“Minto Communities’ on-going support speaks to their strong commitment to our community,” said Chris Brasher, president of Lee BIA Builders Care. “We are fortunate to have them to help local homeowners in Lee County.”

The funds provided by Minto Communities’ home sales in Lee County will provide wheelchair ramps, handicap accessibility, widened doorways, roof and air conditioning repairs and more.

About Builders Care

Builders Care is the nonprofit charitable arm of the Lee Building Industry Association (BIA). Its objective is to provide emergency repairs and construction services to elderly, disabled and economically disadvantaged people who are unable to obtain home repairs through traditional means. To date, Lee BIA Builders Care has put nearly $3.7 Million in construction services back into the community at no cost to homeowners in need.  Builders Care enlists the volunteer services of Lee BIA members and leverages grants and donated materials to provide construction and remodeling services to qualified homeowners throughout Lee County. Major supporters include Cape Coral Plumbing, Ferguson Enterprises, Minto Communities, Nilles Design Group, Priority Marketing of Southwest Florida, Stock Development and The Aubuchon Team of Companies. Builders Care is headquartered at the Lee BIA offices at 10501 Six Mile Cypress Pkwy., Suite 118 in Fort Myers. The Building Industry Association (www.BIA.net ) is a 50-year-old association affiliated with National Home Builders Association and Florida Home Builders Association to serve the local building and related industries to strengthen our community by advancing a professional building industry through advocacy, education and services. Donations can be made online at www.LeeBuildersCare.org, or to the Builders Care general fund at BB&T Page Field branch at 4959 South Cleveland Ave. in Fort Myers. For more information, visit www.LeeBuildersCare.org.

About Minto Communities

Founded in 1955, Minto is a family-owned business that has grown over the last 60 years into one of North America’s leading builders, with more than 80,000 homes built, including 25,000 in Florida in 44 communities throughout the state. Minto creates a wide array of award-winning new homes and resort-style master-planned communities to meet every lifestyle. The company has earned national awards and recognition that include consistently high rankings from Eliant Customer Service Surveys, Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) and multiple national awards in community and home design. For information, visit mintofla.com.

SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc. introduces 2016 Child Artist Avery McCaskill

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Now in its tenth year, child artist program has raised $1 million for SWFL Wine & Food Fest beneficiary, Golisano Children’s Hospital

Nothing illustrates the reason Golisano Children’s Hospital is the primary beneficiary of the Southwest Florida Wine Fest better than the child artist program. SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc. is proud to introduce 2016 Child Artist Avery McCaskill from Naples. A patient of Golisano Children’s Hospital, six-year-old Avery worked alongside artist Ellen Sheppard to create a wise and beautiful owl, a one-of-a-kind painting, to be auctioned off during the SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc.’s signature event, the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest on Feb. 27.

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Now in its tenth year, the child artist program has raised more than $1 million over ten years to benefit pediatric care at the five-county region’s only children’s hospital, Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida. Bids for the artwork will start at $5,000, and last year’s child art raised $500,000.

A healthy, happy four-year-old with bouncy curls and a winning smile, Avery was doing fine until February of 2013. That’s when her parents noticed something was wrong. She was acting clumsily running into walls and cabinets. Always full of energy, she slept on her mother’s lap through a Sunday morning church service. That’s when her parents, Sondra and William McCaskill, took their daughter to the closest emergency room. They were quickly told she might have leukemia.

“I knew something was wrong,” said Sondra. “I thought they would transport us via helicopter to Miami or Tampa for our care. I didn’t even know a hospital like Golisano Children’s existed so close to home.”

Avery was transported a short distance to Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida in nearby Fort Myers where a diagnosis of leukemia was confirmed. She immediately began treatment.

“I never knew of anyone with cancer, and it was happening to my child,” said Sondra McCaskill, Avery’s mom. “They told us we had a long road ahead. Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia or ALL for short. The term acute means that it can spread quickly, even fatal within a few months. We wouldn’t accept that and held on tight to our faith.”

Once at Golisano Children’s Hospital, a port was placed in her chest and she was given chemotherapy immediately.

Like many young children, Avery is naturally drawn to art, and the hospital taps into the innate joy creativity brings to help young patients like her through the treatment process. For example, Avery first learned about her chemo treatments by playing with syringes filled with paint.

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“She got to squirt paint all over this huge piece of paper in the hospital play room,” said Sondra. “The child life specialist made it so much fun, I wanted to join in.”

Now, as a Southwest Florida Wine and Food Fest child artist, Avery has had the unique opportunity to work with Child Life veteran and artist Ellen Sheppard, and a new art mentor, Joelene Black. This talented trio worked together, and Avery has created the poster art that will be auctioned at the Southwest Florida Wine Fest on Feb. 27, 2016.

“Every year, auction attendees fall in love with these children, their stories and their artwork,” said Sheppard. “Tears flow, paddles are raised and attendees give graciously to support the patients of Golisano Children’s Hospital. Traditionally, the works are then donated back to the hospital where they are displayed for patients, families, visitors and staff to enjoy.”

Sheppard, who is “retiring” from her role as child art mentor after ten years, has kept a log book of all the artwork from pediatric patients over the past ten years. Sheppard is passing the paint brush to artist Joelene Black, who was the mother of last year’s child artist, Sophie Black.

“Art is therapeutic, and painting allows the children to express themselves, as well as to enjoy themselves,” said Black. “It’s truly an honor to share this experience with patients and families. I look forward to serving as the child art mentor and to support the program that brought so much joy to our daughter and family during a very difficult time.”

Avery chose to paint one of her favorite subjects, the wise old owl. An orange and yellow creature perched on a branch, the owl’s eyes say it all with an inquisitive twinkle that her mother says, is a window into her daughter’s personality. The sky indicates a sunny outlook, and the optimistic tone is moving considering the magnitude of the young artist’s health struggles. Then again, she is triumphing over her disease, and there is good reason to believe in blue skies ahead.

“Avery loves owls. She’s been through so much at a young age and she’s really smart beyond her years. She’s wise and beautiful, just like an owl,” says Sondra.

At a time when most children are learning to ride a bike, starting kindergarten and playing with young friends, Avery was part of a clinical trial and in the fight of her life. For two and a half years, she underwent treatment including 18 hospital visits to endure lumbar punctures, bone marrow needle draws, transfusions. Not to mention, there were countless visits for chemotherapy.

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Numerous times, she was hospitalized because of the grueling side effects of the chemotherapy.

“Throughout it all, Avery did not change who she was,” said Sondra. “Her faith never wavered and her strength and courage brought us to tears on many occasions. Avery has taught us all to be strong through life’s little storms and know that they will soon pass, not to take one minute for granted, and to love more and more each day.”

Now six years old, Avery continues to take medication and visits the hospital often for checkups.

“Nobody plans on their child getting sick and you just can’t imagine the impact that it has on the entire family,” said Sondra. “At a time like this, it means everything to be near home and have a support system nearby. We would have been separated if we had to leave Southwest Florida. But instead, my husband kept his job, my parents were nearby to help with our older daughter. We kept our family together and I’m forever grateful to the Golisano Children’s Hospital and SWFL Children’s Charities.”

Check out Avery’s artwork and learn more about how you can support SWFL Children’s Charities at www.swflwinefest.org.

The SWFL Children’s Charities Inc.’s annual signature fundraiser, the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest, has raised nearly $15 million over the past seven years, making it the most successful fundraising event in Lee County and one of the top-grossing wine fests in the country. Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida is the primary beneficiary of the event, and the money raised helps to fund the building of the new family-centered children’s hospital that will provide new and expanded medical services and subspecialty services to children from Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. In addition to providing funds for the new state-of-the-art Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, the SWFL Children’s Charities supports healthcare programs at Florida SouthWestern State College and Florida Gulf Coast University. For more information, visit www.swflwinefest.org.

SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc. announces 2015-2016 trustees of the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest

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SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc. introduces its 2015-2016 Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest trustees, a group of community members who have dedicated their time and resources in support of the organization’s mission to benefit area children. Trustees include Liz and Jeff Allbritten, Dwayne Bergmann and Luis Insignares, Wilson Bradshaw, Bev and Art Cherry, Cheryl and Dave Copham, Dorothy and Ron Fitzgerald, Pat and David Gibbons, Elaine and Fred Hawkins, Rose O’Dell and Gary King, Vicki and Richard Pitbladdo, Sandra Stilwell, Debbie and Bill Toler, Ute and Franz Rosinus, Andie and Don Vogt and Maria and Wayne Wiles.

These individuals profoundly impact the lives and health of children in Southwest Florida through their support of the SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc. and its annual signature event, the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest, to be held Feb. 26 and 27 at Miromar Lakes Beach and Golf Club.

“The trustees are loyal and passionate supporters of the organization’s mission and are instrumental in the growing success of the SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc. and its signature event, the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest,” said Elaine Hawkins, president of SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc. “The trustees are charged with supporting the event in many ways, including hosting vintner dinners for the event, donating wine, serving on committees for various aspects of the two day event as well as underwriting the cost of the event. They are one of the many reasons that the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest has received accolades as the top fundraising event in our community. Most importantly, they are among the greatest champions of children’s causes in our community and we are grateful for their continued support.”

For many trustees, the cause is personal. Trustees Maria and Wayne Wiles both have grandchildren that have benefitted from receiving pediatric care close to home.

“At just two weeks old, my grandson was diagnosed with liver disease at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida,” said Wayne Wiles, trustee for the SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc. and founder of Wayne Wiles Floor Coverings.

“And my granddaughter was born with a heart condition,” added Wayne’s wife, Maria Wiles. “Both Wayne and I appreciate the value of having quality care for children and families in Southwest Florida, so that families can stay close to home while receiving the care they need. It helps keep a family together during a difficult time. So in honor of our grandchildren and families, we’re proud to support the advancement of pediatric healthcare in Southwest Florida.”

The SWFL Children’s Charities Inc.’s annual signature fundraiser, the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest, has raised nearly $15 million over the past seven years, making it the most successful fundraising event in Lee County and one of the top-grossing wine fests in the country. Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida is the primary beneficiary of the event, and the money raised helps to fund the building of the new family-centered children’s hospital that will provide new and expanded medical services and subspecialty services to children from Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. In addition to providing funds for the new state-of-the-art Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, the SWFL Children’s Charities supports healthcare programs at Florida SouthWestern State College and Florida Gulf Coast University. For more information, visit www.swflwinefest.org.

Lung Cancer Research Council announces sponsors for SW Florida 5K Run/Walk and Mile of Memories Memorial Walk

Lung Cancer Research Council-SW Florida Run-Walk

The Lung Cancer Research Council is proud to announce the sponsors of the SW Florida 5K Run/Walk and Mile of Memories Memorial Walk, to be held Nov. 7 at the Charlotte Sports Park, 2300 El Jobean Rd. in Port Charlotte. This year’s presenting sponsor is South Florida Ford. The platinum sponsors are Morgan Stanley and Truly Nolen Pest Control. The gold sponsors include Buffalo Graffix, CeJay Associates, LLC, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Florida Weekly, iHeartRadio, McDonnell Dermatology and Sun Newspapers. This year’s silver sponsors are Pulmonary Sleep & Critical Care Specialists, Marketing Arm International, Rotary Club of Harbor Heights – Peace River, Peace River Distributing and DB Sound Systems. The bronze sponsors are Farr Law Firm and Fawcett Memorial Hospital.

Now in its third year, the Lung Cancer Research Council’s annual SW Florida 5K Run/Walk and Mile of Memories Memorial Walk raises awareness and supports those who have been affected by lung cancer. Event proceeds will benefit programs that promote lung cancer screening and early detection. Registration is available online at www.SWFLRunWalk.LCRCinc.org.

“Sponsors make a significant impact on our efforts to make a difference within the community,” said Thomas E. Cappiello, president of the Lung Cancer Research Council. “We greatly appreciate the generous support of our community and we know that their contributions will play a large role in increasing public awareness and understanding about lung cancer.”

Sponsorship opportunities are still available for the upcoming SW Florida 5K Run/Walk and Mile of Memories Memorial Walk. Businesses interested in contributing are encouraged to create a corporate team or can support the cause by purchasing a memorial or corporate support sign to be displayed along the finishing quarter mile. Businesses that purchase a corporate sign also receive a sign to display at their place of business. Sponsor donations are still welcome and will receive recognition on the Lung Cancer Research Council’s website, social media and email communications. To learn more about event sponsorship or to purchase memorial or corporate support signs, visit www.SWFLRunWalk.LCRCinc.org.

About the Lung Cancer Research Council

The Lung Cancer Research Council is a nonprofit, volunteer organization dedicated to increasing public awareness and understanding about lung cancer and promoting screening and early detection in order to save lives. The Lung Cancer Research Council seeks to engage lung cancer survivors, family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers and others who share our mission to extend and save lives. To learn more about the Lung Cancer Research Council, visit www.LungCancerResearchCouncil.org or email Info@LCRCinc.org.

Norman Love Confections supports breast cancer awareness, offers special limited-edition pink heart box during October

Norman Love Confections Heart Box

Norman Love Confections is observing Breast Cancer Awareness month with a special promotion, offering the community a sweet way to raise breast cancer awareness and support those who are currently fighting against breast cancer. During the month of October, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of each limited-edition pink heart gift box will benefit Lee Memorial Health System’s Women’s Breast Care Center at the Regional Cancer Center. The special pink gift box will feature a 20-piece selection of Norman Love Confections’ signature pieces.

The pink heart boxes are available at Norman Love Confections’ three chocolate salons in Fort Myers, Estero and Naples, as well as online at www.normanloveconfections.com. The heart-shaped boxes can only be shipped within the continental U.S., as the gourmet chocolates created by Norman Love Confections’ are preservative-free with a shelf life of no more than three weeks.

Norman Love Confections creates and distributes handcrafted artisan chocolates from its corporate headquarters in Fort Myers that encompasses both production and retail operations. The three chocolate salons are stylish retail shops that offer an intimate ambience in which customers may purchase chocolates or linger over house-made pastries, gourmet coffees, lattes and smoothies.

The Fort Myers-based chocolatier has been lauded 13 times by a leading consumer ratings magazine, including recognition six times for producing the best ultra-premium chocolates.

Founded in 2001 by Norman and Mary Love, Norman Love Confections creates and distributes handcrafted artisanal chocolates from its corporate headquarters at 11380 Lindbergh Blvd. in Fort Myers.  The award-winning Fort Myers-based chocolatier has been lauded more than a dozen times by a leading consumer ratings magazine, including recognition six times for producing the best ultra-premium chocolates in the nation. Forbes.com included Norman Love Confections BLACK line on its list of the nation’s top 10 truffles; The Huffington Post listed it among the six best U.S. destinations in its Chocolate Lover’s Travel Guide; and USA Today named Love as one of its top 10 entrepreneurs for 2014.

Norman Love Confections has Chocolate Salons in Fort Myers, Estero and Naples, and Artisan Gelato by Norman Love is next door to the Fort Myers salon, off Daniels Parkway east of I-75. Chocolates, gift baskets, sipping chocolate and Love’s book, “Artistry in Chocolate, A Story of Love,” also can be ordered online at www.normanloveconfections.com. In addition, Norman Love Confections chocolates and desserts are offered on 18 Princess Cruises’ ships through the “Chocolate Journeys” partnership and at independent retail locations throughout the U.S. For more information visit www.normanloveconfections.com or call 239-561-7215.