Naples Winter Wine Festival auction raises millions for kids in Collier County

Published: January 29, 2022 5:51 PM EST
Updated: January 31, 2022 7:19 AM EST

The Naples Winter Wine Festival auction’s headline event got underway on Saturday. WINK News anchor Therese O’Shea was there as the paddles went up and the wine began to flow.

Sitting in on one of the highest-end biggest live auctions in the country makes it easy to see why patrons, donors, trustees and volunteers are so passionate about spreading the wealth to the children of Collier County.

Bill Cary is a trustee and says while many come for the party, the kids are the reason they stick around. “Oftentimes, people in Naples, they come for the wine and for the party, but then they see the cause, and they stay for the kids,” Cary said.

This year’s festival is back in person after going virtual last year. Everyone at the Naples Winter Wine Festival enjoyed being back together in 2022. “Last year, we did a remote thing… we raised 7 or 8 million dollars which is not terrible, but we hope to raise a lot more today,” said Cary.

Paddles were raised high, but the bids went even higher, to the tune of more than $23 million. That was enough to beat out the 2020 total.

Josh White and John Paolini are business partners with Naples-based sentry insurance advisors. “We couldn’t be happier to be back here in person and to be back with friends in the community and the people traveling from all across the world to support all of these children’s organizations. It’s great,” White said.

White and Paolini have been attending the festival for years, but this year, they say, they see a revived spirit in the air. “There’s really nothing like the momentum of being in the tent, and you just see the paddles up and the excitement and the energy,” said White.

First-year patron Angela Masand and her husband are thrilled that their schedules finally aligned and allowed them to attend. “It’s just a really special weekend. We’ve met really amazing people. And the really nice thing is you’re supporting children of Naples,” said Masand.

And hearing stories from the kids was a huge part. “I was in tears for probably a good 30 minutes,” Masand said. “They shed light on a lot of individual situations that I just never thought about.”

“As a sponsor, it helps ensure that 100 percent of the proceeds raised under the tent actually go to the children’s organizations,” Paolini said.

The Naples Children and Education Foundation makes sure that every single dollar goes to help these at-risk kids get the service they need to thrive. “But that’s one of the special things about this wine festival is how many organizations it benefits in one weekend,” said Paolini.

The 44 auction lots include trips, exclusive luxury vehicles, and the best wines worldwide. “It is competitive! In a really fun way,” said Cary. “I have one that I’m keeping an eye on, but I can’t tell you it’s a secret. We don’t want you bidding against us!”

Festivalgoers reveled in the joys of being back, in-person and together again.

The theme of this year’s festival was “Rise Up!” and one of the most sought-after lots was a private flight to Croatia to split your eight days between a luxury hotel and a 201-foot yacht. This went for $950,000.

While we won’t know the official total for at least a few days, after an auction that raised $17.7 million for the Naples Children & Education Foundation, 43 auction lots weren’t enough. A last round of donations produced $2,577,000 for an unofficial total of $20,277,000.