Normally, the Naples Winter Wine Festival is an event full of fun and music that raises millions of dollars for children in the community. But because of the coronavirus pandemic, there won’t be any meetups this year.
“Events just aren’t safe right now,” said Megan McCarthy CEO of the Boys and Girls club.
Nearly 50 nonprofits and organizations like McCarthy’s rely on the funds raised at that event.
“The event is typically 3 days, the first night is dinner 2nd night is auction…followed by an after-party,” said, Maria Jimenez-Lara.
But organizers knew that they couldn’t cancel the event because so many people rely on it. So Naples Children and Education Foundation CEO, Maria Jimenez-Lara and others decided to make the event virtual.
“It’s probably one of the hardest decisions we ever made,” said Jimenez-Lara. They’re making sure to keep the children and attendees safe.
McCarthy’s Boys and Girls Club just hopes the donations and support stay the same. “We are [almost] in August and the pandemic started in march and we’ve seen no drop in numbers in the people that are coming through with food assistance,” she said.
So this year, the donations may be needed more than ever. “‘Increased expenses that were not budgeted and not anticipated to make a safe environment for kids to be in,” McCarthy said.
While January is months away, organizers have envisioned the virtual event being multiple screens playing testimonials. “‘Share the story and then have a live feed to meet the actual beneficiary or recipient or the person,” Jimenez-Lara said.
Once they meet the recipient, people would be allowed to make virtual pledges.
“We invest over 15 million dollars into this community every year to take care of children,” she said. And Maria Jimenez-Lara hopes to continue to put money back into the community through this event for years to come.
This year’s theme is “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ it will begin on January 30, 2021. The auction, which in the past has featured luxury trips, specialty cars, and, of course, exotic wine, will be accepting bids until February 2.