Left to right: Joe Pavich, Jenn Pavich, Christin Collins, Jason Stephens, Brooke Denson, Sandy Stilwell Youngquist, Elaine Hawkins, Fred Hawkins and Richard Pitbladdo.
Trustees of SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc. presented grants totaling $1.79 million to 14 beneficiaries of the 2019 Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest to enhance pediatric healthcare services and education programs in the Five-county region. A majority of the proceeds were awarded to organizations providing children’s mental and behavioral health services.
Golisano Children’s Hospital, Florida Gulf Coast University and Florida SouthWestern State College are the main beneficiaries, and a portion of auction proceeds also were awarded to Blessings in a Backpack, Community Cooperative, Inc., Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Florida Lions Eye Clinic, Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida, Help a Diabetic Child Foundation, Hope Kids Care, Lighthouse of SWFL and Make-A-Wish Southern Florida.
Auction-goers held their paddles high, giving generously to raise $516,775 during the Fund-A-Cause to help provide local children with the care that is desperately needed to triumph over mental illness. SWFL Children’s Charities partnered with SWFL Community Foundation to administer this grant. Three organizations received funding to provide this underserved and vitally important need for children and families in our region. Organizations receiving funds included David Lawrence Mental Health Center, Florida Gulf Coast University Foundation and Valerie’s House.
The Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest, a signature event of SWFL Children’s Charities, features chef vintner dinners, a grand tasting and live auction. Since its inception 11 years ago, the event has raised more than $22.8 million to benefit local nonprofit organizations. SWFL Children’s Charities carries out its mission of saving children’s lives by supporting organizations committed to pediatric health care services and education.
Golisano Children’s Hospital plans to use the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest grant to expand Opthalmology services and access to care with additional regional locations and provide additional mental and behavioral health services to children.
“SWFL Children’s Charities was the second-largest contributor to help build Golisano Children’s Hospital, and we’re thankful the organization continues to be one of our biggest supporters,” said Dr. Larry Antonucci, president and CEO of Lee Health. “By working together for the benefit of our youth, these programs will ultimately save the lives of Southwest Florida children.”
The other beneficiaries have designated Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest proceeds as follows:
• Florida Gulf Coast University: Scholarships for students majoring in pediatric health care sciences.
• Florida SouthWestern State College: Scholarships for students majoring in pediatric health care sciences and equipment for FSW’s health sciences department.
• Blessings in a Backpack: Food for approximately 250 children every weekend throughout the school year
• Community Cooperative, Inc.: Emergency food programs for kids
• Cystic Fibrosis Foundation: Co-pay assistance, health insurance navigation, & legal resources for families with child with Cystic Fibrosis
• Florida Lions Eye Clinic: Free eye care screenings and evaluations for children
• Harry Chapin Food Bank of SWFL: Increase mobile pantries for under-served areas
• Help a Diabetic Child Foundation: Expand supplies and medical visits for children with Diabetes
• Hope Kids Care: Care, counseling & support for families of children with complex medical complications
• Lighthouse of SWFL: Create a creative space for blind babies and an afterschool sports program for children
• Make-A-Wish Southern Florida: Grant wishes for children with critical illness
“This year, we expanded the number of grant recipients to fifteen organizations so the Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest could have an even greater impact across Southwest Florida,” said Sandy Stilwell-Youngquist, board president for SWFL Children’s Charities. “We feel privileged to be able to provide funds to organizations that make lifechanging strides for mental and behavioral health, and children’s healthcare services and education. We are thankful for our chairs, Christin Collins, Brooke Denson and Debbie Toler, for leading this year’s charge, and for all our donors, volunteers and sponsors who are making waves in our community through their support of the children and families who need our help the most.”
The grand tasting and live auction for the 2020 Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest will take place on Feb. 22, 2020, at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa in Bonita Springs.