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Original painting featured on event posters, to be auctioned at Grand Tasting on Feb. 27

(Fort Myers, Fla. – Feb. 5, 2010) — Joseph West, of Naples, a 5-year-old cancer patient at The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, is a dedicated Florida Gators fan. He even dressed up like Albert E. Gator, the university’s mascot, for Halloween, and decorated his Christmas tree in all things Gator. So when local Artist Ellen Sheppard was planning her painting session with Joseph, The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida’s child artist selected to create the SWFL Wine & Food Fest signature poster, her husband John had just the right idea. Known to many as the steadfast bearer of teddy bears to every young patient of The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, John Sheppard headed out to find a bear dressed up like University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow.

Not only did Teddy Bear Tebow, as he became known, lift Joseph’s spirits, but he also provided the perfect inspiration for the painting to be featured on this year’s Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest posters. Ellen Sheppard has been offering her guidance to the hospital’s child artists for the signature posters of the SWFL Wine & Food Fest since nearly its inception over 6 years ago.

“Joseph loves his Gators, so Teddy Bear Tebow couldn’t have been a better pick for him,” says Joseph’s mom, Tiffany West. “He loves art projects almost as much as he loves the Gators.”

The Naples family makes several trips a month to visit Joseph’s pediatric oncologist at The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida’s Chrissy Brown Cancer Unit for regular rounds of chemotherapy. Two years into his treatment, Joseph is doing well. Now his painting will help other ill children in Southwest Florida get well.

Joseph’s original acrylic painting, along with four tickets to the 2010 University of Florida vs. Kentucky game on Sept. 25, 2010 in the Swamp, will be auctioned off at the Wine Fest’s grand tasting on Feb. 27. Wine Fest Chairman Dr. Steve Machiz says the children’s artwork is typically one of the highest-bid lots.

The Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest is a signature event of the SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc., a 501c3 non-profit organization that provides funding to local charities serving local children. It begins the evening of Feb. 26 when 19 families will host 11 dinners at private homes around Southwest Florida for invited guests donating $500 to $2,500 per seat. Each dinner will feature wines by featured vintners and Southwest Florida’s finest local chefs, including:

  • Marbin Avilez Sr., Bayfront Bistro
  • Nick Costanzo, Angelina’s Ristorante
  • Reiner Drygala, Bistro 41
  • Caroline Hostettler, 55 Degrees
  • Ryan Leto, Roy’s
  • Jeffrey Lucas, Ruth’s Chris Steak House
  • Thomas Pedit, Miromar Lakes Beach & Golf Club
  • Michael Ragusa, The Sandy Butler
  • Jayson Rydell, Flippers – Lover’s Key Resort
  • Andreas Singer, Hyatt Regency Coconut Point
  • Jesse Souza, LaPlaya Beach Resort
  • Gil Suarez, Capital Grille
  • Eric Truglas, French Bread Oven
  • Christian Vivet, Blue Windows Bistro & Catering
  • Shannon Yates, Cru

With Special Guests

  • Norman Love, Norman Love Confections
  • Keegan Gerhard, Food Network
  • Casey Thompson, Top Chef Season 3

The signature Vintner is Juelle Fisher, of Fisher Vineyards of Napa Valley. Other wineries represented are Ponzi Vineyards, Willamette Valley, Oregon; Teachworth Winery, Calistoga, California; Bodega Catena Zapata, Mendoza, Argentina; Tablas Creek Vineyards, Paso Robles, California; Anderson’s Conn Valley Vineyard, St. Helena, California; Turnbull Wine Cellars, Oakville and Calistoga, California; Castello Banfi, Montalcino, Italy; Silver Oak, Napa Valley, California; V Madrone Winery, St. Helena, California; Honig Vineyards and Winery, Rutherford, California; Peter Lehmann Wines, Barossa Valley, Australia, and more.

On Feb. 27, the chefs, vintners, dinner guests and others come together at the Miromar Lakes Beach & Golf Club for the Grand Tasting and Auction. Participating chefs prepare their favorite signature dishes to accompany signature Champagne Reception sponsor Piper Heidsieck’s Champagnes.

The Auction features exceptional packages of special and unique wines, exclusive trips, amazing dining experiences and more. All proceeds from the auction and event ticket sales will benefit three causes benefiting children’s health care in our area: The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida, Edison State College’s Pediatric Nursing Program and an endowment to Florida Gulf Coast University to establish a pre-med student scholarship.

Last year’s event netted $753,000 resulting in a $600,000 donation to The Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida and $50,000 to Edison State College.

For more information about the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest or ticket sales, visit or call 239-278-3900.