Love And Hope Ball 2016 - Part 1

Story/photos by Anne Jakowenko
February 6th. 2016

 Part 1Part 2

Anne Jakowenko reports in 2 parts about the event which benefits the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation.
The 42nd. “Love And Hope” Ball took place a the Fontainebleau Hotel on February 6th. 2016.
Copyright: Anne Jakowenko.

Fantasy at the Fontainebleu

Well, the night finally arrived. The Love and Hope Ball to benefit the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation. Here is how the the fantasy unfolded.

February 6, 2016
3:30 p.m.
I arrived amid the organized chaos of the valet parking entrance to the elite Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida, giving props to the valet attendant who didn’t so much as raise an eyebrow my way, even though I was in black sweatpants and a white tee, a suit carrier over one shoulder and a camera case over the other. I headed for the nearest ladies’ facility to change and then made my way to the Sparkle Ballroom area to find the DRIF staff.

They were grouped in a huddle, already dressed in beautiful gowns and ready to face a hectic nine hours of work. It was only 4 p.m. but they were going over notes and their game plan for the event. Their organization, professionalism and good humor were on display, even though running an event such as this is daunting.

An hour later, I was waiting for arrivals to the event in the main lobby of the Fontainebleau, chatting with Jim Miller, husband of Jill Shapiro Miller, VP of Gift Planning at the DRIF. He was there to assist, dapper in his tux, and happy to tell me an anecdote about his childhood. He was 11 or 12 and meeting big stars in Las Vegas because his uncle was a boss at the Sands and then later at other big hotels on the Strip. He mentioned meeting Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. (among others), and then we chatted about Barry Gibb. Smiling, he said “I’ve know Barry for over 15 years now. He’s just a “good egg”, a wonderful man besides being a musical icon. He’s just a great guy with no ego”. I thought that high praise, and he beamed as he commented his appreciation for knowing the Gibb family.

Another staff member, Karen Paraboo, Administrator and Technology Manager, echoed his sentiments. She talked with me about living a dream being around Barry. She was born in British Guyana, and her uncle had an influence on her regarding the Bee Gees (he saw Saturday Night Fever 27 times). She enthusiastically recounted her childhood days of roller skating with her walkman playing Abba and The Bee Gees. She still is excited to live the dream of interacting with the Gibbs decades later.

Joelle Parra, Communications and Social Media Manager, was glowing when she mentioned her awe of the Gibb family. Joelle just radiates enthusiasm and positivity, and again I was thinking of how grateful I was to be around a staff that seems to truly love their work.

Joelle Parra, Communications and Social Media Manager, was glowing when she mentioned her awe of the Gibb family. Joelle just radiates enthusiasm and positivity, and again I was thinking of how grateful I was to be around a staff that seems to truly love their work.

Barbara Singer and Lauren Schreier

Add Lauren Schreier, the blond, petite Senior Director of Marketing fireball, and Barbara Singer, the forever focused dynamo and matriarch of the DRIF, and you have a winning team. It’s difficult to mention the scores of people who devote their time to this event, but be assured that they ran all night, doing what needed to be done to achieve the common goal of a successful event. As the guests started to arrive, I spotted Dr. Camilo Ricordi and scored kisses on both cheeks from the TOP MAN at the DRI. He is always the cosmopolitan charmer. I commented that I loved his new haircut; and although he said he was tired from a long trip back from Italy and had just had it cut, he smiled and posed for photos; and as the night went on, he embraced his role and had a wonderful time with the guests.

Also, I was so happy to see Giacomo Lanzoni. Yes, still the raven-haired boy wonder scientist, taking the ladies’ breath away and introducing me to his stunning wife (who looks like a super model and is as sweet as Doris Day)

Dr.Midhat Abulreda, one of my favorite research scientists at the DRI, was there, handsome and smiling, also with his beautiful wife. He and Giacomo brought back memories of my visits to their laboratories. Giacomo asked, “When are coming back to visit us again? Please come any time!”

Ok, so did I say that these men are brilliant scientists whose dedication to their research is unequaled in their profession? What a blessing they are.

The DRIF has outdone itself this year. The Love and Hope Ball was different this time, something special about the new venue (the Fontainebleau is spectacular). Maybe it was the multi-level LIV Nightclub, where the two-hour cocktail event was held. It’s trendy and stainless steel modern but still had the glitter balls hanging from the ceiling. A gigantic mural of Al Pacino hangs on one wall, and a video screen behind the stage area, where the Gibb entourage was holding court, glowed with multi-colored patterns of psychedelic paintings that enhanced the thumping music being played.

I loved the way the food buffets were set up on two floor levels and offered everything from roast beef to vegetarian platters, roasted almonds and fresh strawberries.

The Sparkle Ballroom gave off a totally different vibe, elegance to the max, breathtaking floral arrangements four feet high, with lavender colored lights glowing from the ceiling and deep purple glittered tablecloths twinkling in the dim lighting. The silent auction items again made me shake my head in wonder. Elegant jewelry, trips; mind-numbing creativity went into the array of choices one could bid on. Of course, Barry Gibb donated one of his guitars, which was a highlight. To know that such generous patrons work with the DRIF is heartwarming.

As guests took their seats for dinner, a rock/funk band played everything from Bruno Mars to Neal Diamond and had hundreds in attendance arm-waving and singing along, a contrast to the music in the LIV nightclub and yet totally fun. Patrons let loose and sang out while they sipped their cocktails.

I could write for days about this event, but you get the idea. The night was magical. Some of the other highlights were: Barry Gibb graciously addressing the crowd, who as usual, were awed by his charisma and sincerity; the program giving acclaim and recognition to Francine Lowe, Barbara and Donald Kaufmann and Dalia Glottmann, the evening’s honorees; the wonderful dinner amid a fantasy-like setting, and a balanced entertainment program to suit every taste. (Loved Will and Anthony Nunziata and their energetic talents).

It’s clear that a hundred special little moments came together to create a seamless, elegant evening for all. I am humbled and grateful to be a part of any event that the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation sponsors.

However, let us not lose sight of the goal. The dedicated, brilliant doctors and entire staff are indeed “The Best Hope For a Cure”. So now they move on to the next events, The Gift of Love, Gift of Hope Luncheon at St. Andrews Country Club on February 22 and the DRI Walk for Diabetes in Martins Park on March 5, just a few of the many to help raise funds and provide information and education in the next year.

So, spread the word to everyone you know. Please give, help, support, donate, spread awareness any way you can and be proactive in supporting the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation. It is a noble cause for us all.

To be continued