PHOTOS: “WishMaker’s Ball” a magical, spirit-lifting gala

Among little ones who learn early on to wish upon a star, few are luckier to have their wishes heard than those whose heart’s desires are granted through the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Florida, Southwest division.

On May 15, the fourth annual Southwest Florida black tie ball was held at the Hyatt Regency in Bonita Springs, where more than 180 supporters gathered to bid on a wide range of silent and live auction items and packages. Area businesses donated attractive wares and services.

The two cash bars and tables laden with savory snacks were popular, but the biggest draw was the chocolate bar where chocolatier Justin Schaffer offered free samples from Irresistible Confections, his fledgling company. The selections included warmed, dark chocolate cum cabernet sauvignon, also known as “sipping chocolate.” Only in his mid-20s, the Fort Myers-based entrepreneur has quickly made a name for himself.

The center of attention during the opening reception was the Bill Hess family, recently back from a week’s adventure on Maui. In fact, mom Wendy declared they were “still in an aloha-state-of-mind!” The special wish belonged to 16-year old son Sullivan (Sully), a dream vacation granted by Marc Farrell and Sue Lottridge, longtime Make-A-Wish activists. Younger sisters Mary and Lucy happily joined their big brother, who is progressively losing his eyesight due to a medical condition.

Patrick Nolan, Fox News 4 anchor, was the emcee, introducing judges and area notables who interpreted recorded dance moments from film classics. Leading off was Angela Schivinski representing the Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce — and scantily clad in black-accented red.

Stunning in black, Kendra Sutton, WINK TV’s marketing consultant, won People’s Choice Award. Amy Sedlacek of Fox 4 and Judith Yevick/Make-A-Wish West Coast operations manager, wowed the crowd as they pranced about the dance floor. Their costumes: authentic, shortened gray satin, fringed Frederick’s of Hollywood negligees with white feather boas and bowlers.

Skilled auctioneer and jeweler Mike Joyce of Gulfcoast Coin & Jewelry successfully auctioned off more than $7,000 in items, including a Cape Coral Fire Department station tour, including an engine ride and prime rib dinner for 10, twice over; and dinner with Bonita Springs Mayor Ben Nelson at the Bonefish Grill.

Nolan guided supporters, who made full $5,000 wish contributions or partnered to piece together Perfect Adopt-A-Wishes. They were also encouraged to pledge multiples of $1 votes for their favorite dancers.

Near evening’s end, partygoers spilled onto the dance floor to whirl and twirl to the rhythms of Father Al and the Jazz Congregation, a Cape Coral-based based band that contributed its services at below cost.

Event coordinator Connie Martin estimates net event proceeds at more than 40,000. Tickets were priced at $175 per person. All income will fulfill wishes for enriching experiences for local children, ages 2½ up to 18 years old, with life-threatening ailments.

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