More than 300 bidders came together during SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc.’s 2020 Southwest Florida Wine & Food Fest, generously raising more than $1.4 million to advance pediatric health care across the region.

Celebrating its 12th year, the two-day signature event, themed “Painting a Difference: Putting Kids First,” featured Chef Vintner Dinners on Friday, Feb. 21, creatively hosted in private luxury venues across the region, followed by The Grand Tasting and Live Auction on Saturday, Feb. 22.

At the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa in Bonita Springs, The Grand Tasting brought 10 celebrated local chefs and 17 distinguished vintners together to showcase an array of culinary creations and delectable wines in a beautiful courtyard scene. A spirited Live Auction followed within a lively tented setting, where guests raised their paddles to bid on 38 impressive auction lots.

A sampling of the event’s highest auction bids includes:

  • Private Island Belize: A four-day stay on the only private island in Belize sold for a total of $65,000.
  • I Love Wine: A three-night, four-day stay for four couples at the Amizetta Farmhouse in Napa Valley with private tasting and dining experiences at 12 boutique wineries sold for a total of $40,000.
  • Dinner from Fabrizio Aielli and Norman Love: A progressive, four-course dinner for 14 guests including wine pairings and limousine transportation sold for a total of $36,000.

The Live Auction also highlighted a special Fund-A-Cause addressing the critical need for eye care services in Southwest Florida. Auction-goers held their paddles high, giving generously to raise $564,000 during the Fund-A-Cause to support the establishment of the SWFL Children’s Charities Eye Institute at Golisano Children’s Hospital, which will expand ophthalmology services within the region, reducing access wait times by more than 80% and ensuring that Southwest Florida children have high-quality vision care close to home.

2020 Child Artist Eleanor “Ellie” O’Neal was born at just 23 weeks gestation, weighing only 1 pound, 3 ounces. Now a playful 1-year-old, Ellie took the stage during the Live Auction to present her vibrant, one-of-a-kind piece of art, a painting that reflects the beautiful colors that she now sees thanks to the care she received at Golisano Children’s Hospital. Her artwork, titled “Do You See What I See?” raised $130,000, and the original painting will be displayed on the wall of Golisano Children’s Hospital.

Pass the Hat is one of the favorite lots among bidders due to the unique items donated by the auction-goers themselves. This year the hat included a private cooking class, a four-course dinner and wine pairing, a scholarship to Florida SouthWestern State College and much more. The collection was auctioned off for $25,000.

Funds raised at the auction support SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc.’s efforts to help enable a secure future for the children of Southwest Florida. Proceeds will benefit pediatric health care services at Golisano Children’s Hospital, as well as pediatric health care educational programs at Florida Gulf Coast University and Florida SouthWestern State College.

To learn more about SWFL Children’s Charities, Inc. and its annual signature fundraiser, visit www.swflwinefest.org