The Cayman Heart Fund Red Dress Gala dinner is slated for Feb. 19 at the Grand Cayman Marriott, where guests are encouraged to dress up in their finest disco togs. Why? Because the theme is “Disco Fever” of course!
As usual, there will be an exciting live auction with many fantastic prizes up for grabs, including trips, dinners and unique gifts.
The list is thrilling, starting with a three-night round-trip to Miami for two, and a three-hour catamaran cruise for 32 dinner guests along Seven Mile Beach.
The winners of the Miami trip will stay at the 500-room, Triple A-rated Hard Rock Seminole Hotel and Casino in close-by Hollywood, featuring 130 game tables and 2,200 slot machines. And for those who aren’t into gambling, they can enjoy the 4.5-acre tropical pool oasis and beach club, along with some excellent on-site restaurants.
Winners of the Red Sail catamaran cruise will indulge in hours of executive service from a selection of top Cayman Culinary Society chefs. Depending on the date of the cruise, diners may have personal chef Keith Griffin, Blue Cilantro Executive Chef Vidyadhara Shetty, The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman’s Executive Chef Frederic Morineau or Westin Resort and Spa’s Sandy Tuason showering them with delectable dishes.
Jacques Scott will supply food and wine to enliven the proceedings as guests enjoy the quiet evening lights of Seven Mile Beach from offshore.
Also on the block is dinner for eight with Governor Helen Kilpatrick at her official residence; a three-day Carnival cruise for two from Miami; two return tickets for a three-night stay at Graham’s Place off Guanaja, Honduras; a Stingray City trip for 15; and a one-week diving excursion for two – and Cayman Airways flights – to Little Cayman’s Central Caribbean Marine Institute in June or August.
The CCMI “dive on the edge” research program should appeal particularly to dive enthusiasts. The citizen scientist research program will look at not just the corals around Little Cayman, but, more specifically, the rare Pillar Coral species. Organizers promise lots of diving, photography and scientific inquiry.
Oh, and do not fail to place a bid on the acoustic guitar autographed by singer-songwriter Emmylou Harris. The built-in pickup only adds to its appeal.
Where the money goes
“We raise an average of $30,000 to $35,000 each year,” said Cayman Heart Fund Chairman David Dinner, “and are hoping to match it this year,” although Heart Fund founder and Chairman Emeritus Suzy Soto worried “it is hard to raise money” as a host of organizations compete for the limited “charity dollar,” and families face budget obstacles.
Indefatigable, however, Ms. Soto and fund volunteers sold all 30 tables – at $1,900 for a table of 10 – while she and Mr. Dinner describe the causes the evening will aid.
“The board decides on the basis of the greatest need,” Ms. Soto said, naming services offered to Cayman throughout the year such as free screenings so people might “know their numbers” and see a local doctor. March’s Heart Health week offers gratis screening for up to 200 people and a free on-the-spot doctor’s consultation.
Mr. Dinner named the Cayman Islands Hospital cardiac recovery unit; portable defibrillators in public schools on both Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac and in the RCIPS helicopter; an annual health fair, providing public screenings for not only heart problems, but a variety of health issues; the Children’s Health Task Force in public schools, including efforts to change canteen menus to encourage better eating habits; doctors’ symposiums; and last year’s first-time celebration of World Heart Day, which encompassed a “war on weight.”
The fund has also donated $43,000 – one-third of the required total – to the Cayman Islands Hospital for a new ambulance.
History of the Heart Fund
Ms. Soto founded the Cayman Heart Fund in 2007 at her own birthday party in the Cracked Conch, the West Bay restaurant she started, then sold in 2005 after two decades.
“It was the first” fund event, she said, “although it wasn’t a ‘gala,’ it was my birthday.” She had had a pacemaker previously installed in 2001, “and a lot of people were asking me about it. I said I’d like to start a heart fund. I was at the age where I wanted to give back,” although few would argue that Ms. Soto had not already spent a lifetime helping shape and propel the Cayman Islands community.
Declining birthday gifts, instead she collected checks from the attendees, which included pediatrician Dr. Shirley Cridland and Dr. Sook Yin, MBE, both of whom still sit on the organization’s board. They share it with Vice Chair, Venezuelan Dr. Bella Beraha, who trained at the Cleveland Clinic, developing specialties in diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer management, preoperative management and gastrointestinal disorders; Medical Director Dr. Christine Chen, with a diploma from Chapel Hill, North Carolina’s American Board of Pediatrics and, in 2007, from Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital; and Christine Gibbs, fundraiser, event specialist and physical therapist.
This year’s gala kicks off at 6:30 p.m. at the Grand Cayman Marriott. “The Marriott has always been good about working with us on prices,” said Mr. Dinner, with an eye toward maximizing donations.
The event will also feature a raffle, capped by the live auction, conducted by longtime performer, MC and auctioneer Vicki Wheaton, who will take bids on the eight items.
“Vicki has been able to bring in more money than anyone else in the past, and we’re glad to have her,” Mr. Dinner said.
“The evening is going to be spectacular,” Ms. Soto said in her publicity release. “Just to let you know, the dress is elegant, including tux, suits, men’s Caribbean style, long gowns or cocktail dresses and, of course, disco style.”
Popular band Sea N’ B will be performing later in the night, ready to take people through one of their favorite eras of music. No doubt the dance floor will be packed as it has been every year.
Ending with fund-appropriate “heartfelt regards,” Ms. Soto and fund Program Coordinator Junilee Brooks beckoned attendees: “There will be a prize for the couple dressed in the best disco fashion.”
For more information on the Cayman Heart Fund, please see their website.