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TIF Charity Classic Celebration reports successful event

Published: Jan 21, 2013 4:46 AM EST

The results are in and organizers of The Immokalee Foundation’s 2012 Charity Classic Celebration have declared the nonprofit fundraising event a success. The evening included dinner, dancing, a silent auction and Fund A Dream auction for 370 guests at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples as well as the sixth annual Pro-Am golf tournament at Bay Colony that brought many of golf’s most esteemed names to Southwest Florida.

The events raised a combined total of more than $1.5 million to fund the foundation’s educational programs for the children of Immokalee.

The people of Naples are most generous and very philanthropic-minded,” said Pete Negri, co-chair of the 2012 Charity Classic Celebration and TIF board member. “It is always thrilling to see how many people support TIF.”

The children of Immokalee were once again front and center at the Charity Classic Celebration, as the evening was dedicated to providing them with opportunities and experiences that would bring them one step closer to achieving their dreams.

During the evening’s welcome reception and silent auction guests enjoyed the sounds of TIF mentor Manny Touron and students Chedeline Frederick, Mario Trejo and Jesus Segura while perusing and bidding on an exceptional selection of auction items.

The excitement in the air was palpable as patrons sat down to enjoy dinner inspired by the season’s freshest ingredients. Guests had the chance to meet the kids and hear their personal stories and experiences during a special presentation by current and former TIF students. 

Immokalee High School graduate Diana Sanon, for one, moved many audience members to tears with her heartfelt speech. In 2010, she became a tutor for TIF’s Immokalee Readers program. After graduating in 2012, she received a four-year college scholarship and is now attending the University of West Florida in Pensacola.

“I can honestly say that my siblings and I never had a real meaning of hope until The Immokalee Foundation became part of our lives,” Sanon said. “We grew up in hard times, from where my parents struggled to keep a roof over our heads to our mother getting laid off from work. The Immokalee Foundation is a tremendous organization that helps kids like me regain hope and lead us down a pathway to success.”

Following the presentation, auctioneer Scott Robertson, along with TIF students and co-chairs Pete Negri and Don Gunther, led Fund A Dream, a live bidding experience providing benefactors the unique chance to support the young people of Immokalee by giving directly to the children. One hundred percent of the funds raised during Fund A Dream auction benefits TIF programs, and all contributions are 100 percent tax deductible.

The auction was organized into six specific, need-based categories that offer students opportunities to learn, grow and advance through experiences such as taking a trip to our nation’s capital, attending a summer camp in New England or even going to a four-year college or a vocational school. The auction allowed donors to support students by providing college scholarships, literacy enhancement, career development, access to technology and experiences to build leadership and life skills.

The live auction got under way during the second half of the dinner. With paddles in hand, bidders had the option to bid at the level of their choice, and to fund as many dreams as they’d like. To show their appreciation, students awarded the winning bidders by placing a medal around his or her neck.

The initial Fund A Dream opportunity, Crossing the Literacy Bridge, raised funds for students to receive reading tutorship through the after-school Immokalee Readers program. Students currently in the program, who are matched with high school-aged tutors, have developed their literacy, reading skills and writing concepts with vibrant progression. TIF’s next step is to expand the program to include students in third to sixth grades.

The second category, On the Right Track, raised funds for the organization’s Career Development program, which helps graduating seniors prepare to move seamlessly into the workforce or proceed to a post-secondary education at a vocational school or two-year Florida college.

For those determined to attend a four-year college or university, paddle raisers raised the hopes and aspirations of TIF students. Academic dreams come true for students in TIF’s Take Stock in Children program wherein qualified seventh-grade students who successfully fulfill, throughout their secondary school career, their pledge to earn good grades, exhibit good behavior and meet weekly with a mentor are awarded a full Florida state college tuition scholarship upon high school graduation.

Thanks to numerous paddle raisers’ donations, students will have experiences of a lifetime by participating in summer camps and programs which will provide leadership and life skill opportunities; and TIF can provide secured Wi-Fi access so students may continue to learn at home.

Immediately following the live auction, guests were treated to the exceptional talents of Unique Chapters, emerging young artists from Immokalee supporting their hometown.

According to Gunther, it was an evening to remember and one that was enjoyed by all. He credits the event’s success to TIF’s tireless board members, staff, donors, sponsors and other supporters that help underwrite the event, as well as additional programs. “They are changing lives and placing the children of Immokalee on a pathway to success,” Gunther stated. “We could not do it without them.”

Presenting sponsor for the 2012 Charity Classic Celebration and Pro-Am was Kevin Johnson and Wayne Meland with Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management. Additional sponsors were Fifth Third Bank, founding sponsor; and GE Foundation, corporate matching sponsor. Hope Society sponsor was Arthrex. The Empowerment Circle sponsor was Kelly Tractor/CAT. Naples Illustrated was the corporate media sponsor. The Education Circle sponsor was Jaguar of Naples and Porsche of Naples. Jewelry sponsor was Provident Jewelry.

Scott Sherman, principal engineer at Arthrex, said that Arthrex sponsors many local charities through donations and community involvement, “TIF is a great organization that provides leadership and guidance for the youth of Immokalee.”

TIF’s Executive Director Liz Allbritten is thrilled with the fundraising success the organization has experienced over the past year. “In addition to our totals from Charity Classic Celebration, we also raised approximately $1.2 million for our new building in Immokalee to be paid over the next several years.”

The Immokalee Foundation has a range of programs that focus on building pathways to success through college and vocational school, mentoring and tutoring, and opportunities for broadening experiences and life skills development. To learn more about TIF, the Charity Classic Celebration, volunteering as a mentor or for additional information, call 239-430-9122 or visit

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