Dream Keepers Ball
Like excited new parents, Champions for Children executive director Brian McEwen and
development director Liz Kennedy hovered, pampered and coddled guests at the Dream Keepers
Ball, a first-time benefit emceed by Mark Rivera of WTSP Ch.10 and board member Peter Lewis
for the rebranded Child Abuse Council. While entertained by Aerial Dragons acrobats on silks,
supporters learned about developmental play groups, home visits, parent education classes as
well as Kids on the Block, Layla’s House and other programs to help families overcome society’s
challenges. During dinner at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, auctioneer Greg Benjamin pitched
fancy dinners, trips and staycations, getting a $4,100 bid from board member James Armstrong
for week at a Manasota beach house.
George and Cindy Xenick, one of the founders of Kids on the Block, won the drawing for a week
stay at Sherry and Ron Sacino’s villa near Florence, Italy.
Opera Tampa gala
Verdi’s La Traviata dramatized the annual blacktie Opera Gala, where principal cast members
mingled on the set and sang for their supper, so to speak, as opera manager Robin Stamper
explained various plots during the fourcourse meal March 5 at the Straz Center. Maestro Daniel
Lipton and CEO Judy Lisi (whose first opera at age 10 happened to be La Traviata), presented
Tito Capobianco with the 2016 Anton Coppola Excellence in the Arts award for his “pursuit of
perfection.” A friend for 50 years, Sherrill Milnes, called him “one of opera’s most important
directors,” including more than 30 productions at Lincoln Center.
Much missed that night: Opera Tampa’s founding artistic director, composerconductor
Anton Coppola, 99, and patron Warren Rodgers, home recovering from surgery as the crowd sang
Happy Birthday to him.
Less formal was the live auction helmed by magazine publisher Aaron Fodiman, who dubbed an extensive array of wines and a Spa Evangeline gift certificate he sold for $1,550 “wine and a rubdown.”
Spotted in the crowd of opera lovers: founding Opera Tampa subscribers Glenn and Carole Hooper, Jim and Joan Jennewein and Rose and Al Schiff.
Tampa Bay Jewish Film Festival
With a champagne toast to its 20th anniversary, the Tampa Bay Jewish Film Festival opened with a powerful Holocaust drama, Remember, starring Christopher Plummer, one of 11 movies screened over a week, all inspired by Jewish history and culture. Opening night discussions among the 400
moviegoers March 2 at the Straz Center enlivened the dessert buffet in Morsani Hall.
Before dimming the lights, festival cochairs Sara Scher, Stewart Donnell and Steve Schwersky rolled their own credits, honoring three longtime supporters: Cathy Gardner, former director of the Tampa Jewish Community Center, now CEO of the Dayton Jewish Federation; and Susan Heyman and Michael White of Clearwater, volunteers “since Year One.” The award is named for festival founder Jesse Starr.
Some films came with extras like challah bread after Dough, which is about a Jewish baker saved by his Muslim apprentice, and gallery tours when Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict was shown in two art museums. Regional industry insiders led a panel discussion on casting and location scouting.