Gala raises $1 million more for hospital
Published: Saturday, September 29, 2012 at 10:12 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, September 29, 2012 at 10:12 p.m.
ORANGE LAKE — Amid the tuxedos and gowns, a Paso Fino horse show, live music and fine dining in a 24,000-square-foot canvas tent, the purpose of the Noche de Gala fundraiser was kept top of mind for the more than 900 people in attendance Saturday night.
Luisa Ferrero announced that the Sebastian Ferrero Foundation is donating another $1 million to the Shands Hospital for Children at the University of Florida.
The event raised $1.2 million, according to the foundation.
Horst and Luisa Ferrero founded the foundation after their 3-year-old son, Sebastian, died at Shands Hospital in October 2007 following a medication overdose and a series of preventable medical errors.
To date, the foundation has donated $3 million toward the goal of building a separate hospital for children within Shands Hospital while taking in more than $8 million in contributions and pledges, including donations, sponsorships, in-kind services and goods, ticket sales and auction proceeds.
Gainesville native and Google's first employee Craig Silverstein committed $5 million, and the Ferreros have matched $1 million in contributions with their own contributions.
"Tonight it's not about Noche de Gala or any one individual or any one foundation," Luisa Ferrero said. "Tonight serves simply as an annual reunion where we get together and enhance our commitment to children. The real work happens out there every day."
Chris Machen, wife of UF President Bernie Machen, said during a presentation that it would have been easy for the Ferreros to withdraw after losing their son.
"Instead you found the strength within yourself to be a force for positive and lasting change within this region and this state," Machen said.
Saturday marked the fifth year for Noche de Gala and the fourth time it has been held at the Besilu Collection, a 642-acre horse estate in northern Marion County. Tickets were $450 each.
Dr. Curt DeGroff, a pediatric cardiologist at UF&Shands, and his wife Coleen were attending their fifth gala.
"In several cities I've seen first-hand the difference a dedicated children's hospital can make," Dr. DeGroff said.
Karen Chavez, of Tallahassee, was at her first gala. Chavez, whose 8-year-old son has a congenital heart problem, is co-founder of Broken Hearts of Florida, a family support group. She said when kids in Tallahassee have medical problems, Shands is their hospital.
"I came because I want a new children's hospital to save not only kids in this area, but all over the state."
Artist Romero Britto announced that he is donating a sculpture for the Sebastian Ferrero Pavilion in the children's hospital. A rendering showed a boy with a butterfly, inspired by the foundation's logo.
The event had 130 sponsors and more than 200 volunteers, Horst Ferrero said.
Entertainment included the Team iLuminate dance troupe from "America's Got Talent," Grammy-winning band Carlos Oliva & the Judge's Nephews, and a repeat performance by Las Vegas illusionist Simon Winthrop.
A silent auction included art, jewelry and items autographed by world-famous celebrities such as a portrait of the White House signed by six presidents and five vice presidents, a guitar signed by 15 top country stars such as Willie Nelson, Garth Brooks and Tim McGraw, and a red jacket signed by Michael Jackson.
A Jets jersey signed by Tim Tebow had a starting bid of $1,200, while a Heat jersey signed by LeBron James started at $2,400.