MIAMI, November 23, 2015 – A total of 900 people attended the 19TH Annual Best Buddies Miami Gala at the Ice Palace Studios in Downtown Miami on Friday, November 20th. The star-studded event raised $2.5 million in total donations for Best Buddies International, a nonprofit organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).
This year’s Gala celebrated the organization’s student volunteer movement and school programs which is where the organization first began. Founded in 1989 by Anthony K. Shriver, Best Buddies International has grown from one original chapter at Georgetown University to nearly 1,900 middle school, high school, and college campuses across the United States and 55 countries.
The event included a fabulous cocktail hour, gourmet dinner, unique live and silent auctions, and a live performance by special musical guest and Best Buddies Global Ambassador Steve Aoki.
This event, as always, brought together some of Miami’s most notable residents and celebrities from around the globe. In attendance were Gala Co-Chairs Jackie Soffer Robins and Craig Robins, Alina and Anthony K. Shriver; Actors Jason Lewis, Vivica A. Fox, and Verne Troyer; NBA Hall of Famer Alonzo Mourning; Pop Artist Romero Britto; Hotel Heir and Best Buddies employer Jeff Soffer;Miss USA 2015 Olivia Jordan and Miss Teen USA 2015 Katherine Haik.
There were a number of exclusive items up for auction, including a limited edition Hublot Best Buddies Cycling Timepiece, a custom-made Cannondale Best Buddies EVO Bicycle, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to see the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero, a one-of-a-kind Romero Britto Portrait, a luxurious trip to the Montage in Deer Valley with a total of 10 nights during both the winter and summer seasons, the ultimate vacation getaway on a 144 ft. yacht and a Starbase One Jet Card that allows you to fly privately to your destination of choice within the continental United States. The silent and live auctions raised a total of $524,000 for the organization.
Overall the weekend had many highlights:
*Friday’s festivities kicked off bright and early with the Best Buddies Challenge: Miami, a 62-mile charity ride through the streets the Miami. Professional cyclists George Hincapie, Christian Vande Velde, Cameron Wurf, Lyne Bessette and Tim Johnson led the group of 50 riders in this Tour de France-style police escorted peloton.
*Former Miami Heat superstar Alonzo Mourning autographed basketballs to donors who pledged $1,000 to “Sponsor a Buddy” to attend Best Buddies International’s Leadership Conference.
*Several Best Buddies participants showcased their amazing talent throughout the evening including Marlana VanHoose who brought the crowd to their feet with an amazing performance of Adele’s top hits. Buddy Ambassador Molly Wiesman delivered an inspiring speech and Best Buddies Ambassador Lisa Smith, an acclaimed performer, signed to Whitney Houston’s ‘I Will Always Love You.’
*Pop Artist Romero Britto presented Steve Aoki with a custom portrait before Aoki ended the night and rocked the Gala crowd with some of his biggest hits to date.
*On Saturday, a White Mass was held at Saint Patrick’s Church in Miami Beach, in partnership with the Archdiocese of Miami and Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski, in thanksgiving for the lives of individuals with special needs.
This year’s Gala sponsors included: Sterling Foundation Management as the Title Sponsor of the event, with The Ferraro Law Firm as Exclusive Sponsor, and Carnival Cruise Line as the Presenting Sponsor. Other donors were Abdo, Eick, & Meyers LLP, Andrew Barowsky, Braman, Capital Trust Group, Compañía de elaborados de café, The GEO Group Foundation, Grupo RHUO, Klingman & Associates, FIJI Water, The Lampert Foundation, Luisa and Horst Ferrero, Mack Cycle & Fitness, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Sun Capital Partners, Tracfone Wireless, Wells Fargo, Watermill Institutional Trading, ZTE USA, Mark Fisher, Christina Griffith, Nancy & Mark Holowesko, Jackie Soffer Robins & Craig Robins, Ron & Amira Simkins, Michele King Soffer & Don Soffer, Sandy & Tony Tamer and Denise & Walter Robinson. In-kind and Media sponsors are Aventura Worldwide Transportation Service, Courthouse Express, MadisonSouth, Romero Britto, Getty Images — Official Photography Sponsor of Best Buddies International, Niche Media –Premiere Magazine Sponsor of Best Buddies International, and Southern Wine & Spirits.
About Best Buddies International:
Best Buddies® is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Founded in 1989 by Anthony K. Shriver, Best Buddies is a vibrant organization that has grown from one original chapter to more than 1,900 middle school, high school, and college chapters worldwide. Today, Best Buddies’ eight formal programs — Middle Schools, High Schools, Colleges, Citizens, e-Buddies® , Jobs, Ambassadors, and Promoters — engage participants in each of the 50 states and in over 50 countries, positively impacting the lives of more than 900,000 people with and without disabilities around the world. In many cases, as a result of their involvement with Best Buddies, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities secure rewarding jobs, live on their own, become inspirational leaders, and make lifelong friendships. For more information, please visit www.bestbuddies.org, facebook.com/bestbuddies or twitter.com/bestbuddies.
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