The 10th annual Rumrunners Celebrity Chef Night "Culinary Castaway," presented by Corporate Spending Innovations to benefit the Golisano Childen's Hospital of Southwest Florida, was held Aug. 22 at Rumrunners restaurant, 5848 Cape Harbour Drive in Cape Coral.
This event is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, fundraiser each year in Cape Coral and the turnout on a summer evening of local residents and seasonal residents who come in just for this event was enormous and is a testament to the success that this event has had, growing each year. While last year's total was in the $100,000 range of donations in one evening, this year's surpassed that number, bringing in more than $250,000, showing the support that Cape Coral has for this worthwhile cause.
This year's event celebrated a 10-year anniversary this year, proceeds which provide much-needed support to local children with cancer and benefits Barbara's Friends at the Golisano Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida Cancer Fund. It serves as the kick-off to the annual "Helping Kids with Cancer" Radiothon hosted in January by Cat Country 107.1FM.
Owners and partners of Rumrunners, The Joint and RunAgrounds in Cape Harbour, Chef Todd Johnson, Chef Ralph Centalonza, and Chef Fabrice Deletrain, Executive Chef of The Joint, in partnership with Norman Love of Norman Love Confections, Chef Harold Balink of Cru and Chef Brian Roland of Crave Culinaire created an outstanding tasting menu for event guests. This year, a special custom-labeled 2011 Marietta Zinfandel, was made exclusively for this event, including the label with the portraits of all the chefs and was also available for purchase by the case.
After getting to experience each chef's masterpieces at stations set up throughout the venue, the evening also included first-class live and silent auction items. The live auction featured the opportunity to bid on an eight-course dining experience for 10 guests prepared by Chef Todd Johnson & Chef Ralph Centalonza, an eight-guest "Magic of the Mediterranean" wine dinner prepared in the winning bidder's home by Chef Justin Fleming of Pagelli's Rustic Tuscan Grill, one-of-a-kind trips to Hawaii, Toronto, Napa and more! Other not-to-be missed items included jewelry, art, local getaways, boating excursions and autographed memorabilia from the worlds of sports and entertainment. Guests had the opportunity to purchase chance drawing tickets to win a gorgeous custom creation by famed jeweler Mark Loren and the winner, Carol Jenkins of Secure Shredding, was ecstatic with her piece.
Sponsor tables sold out early and individual tickets sold out before the day of the event.
Barbara Watt, owner of Century 21 Sunbelt and well known Cape Coral and Southwest Florida philanthropist, was enthusiastic about this year's event. "This is my favorite, favorite event that I do each year - I love the entire group. And who wouldn't want to help the Children's Hospital? Each year at least one of the children come as a guest of the event and it brightens your heart to be able to see the people that this Children's Hospital is and will benefit. I don't think that people realize that all walks of life go there and we need this hospital in this area helping our youth so that they don't have to leave the area to get treatment, which puts an additional hardship on an already difficult challenge that families face with an ill child."
"It is a special, special thing," Watt said. "I sponsor a table each year and bring 15-20 people every year. It is such a good cause - I already have people asking me about coming next year and I try to rotate the people I have coming so that I get as many people as possible involved and aware of how important this hospital is to us."
Corporate Spending Innovations (CSI) provides accounts payable and credit card solutions for businesses. Although they have been involved with donating to the Golisano Children's Hospital and Barbara's Friends for the last few years, this was their first year in attendance at the Rumrunners' Celebrity Chef Auction and they made an impact. They were the Title Sponsor for the event and the large contingency from CSI who came to the event showed their commitment to supporting the Golisano Children's Hospital by being top bidders for the evening. CSI purchased three monitor machines and one-third of a fourth machine for the Golisano Children's Hospital - machines that are much needed by the hospital.
According to Ryan Smith, co-chair of CSI charity committee, "As a local business in the area for 25 years, we have been very touched and thrilled to be part of a local organization that is doing so much for Lee County. We have a great enthusiasm for what the hospital is bringing to the area with the new children's hospital and the work that Barbara's Friends has done. Although it was our first year at the Rumrunner's event, we look forward to being there next year and seeing how much more money can be raised and being a part of the huge community effort to build this hospital. We had a great time and were thrilled to be a part of a great night for such a worthy cause."
Carol Jenkins, spokesperson for Secure Shredding, Inc., another company attending for the evening that came out in force and a multi-year sponsor of the event enthusiastically sang the praise of this fundraiser.
"We have missed one year out of the 10 years that they have been doing it, and we have been a sponsor since we started going. First and most important, you want to help any child that is in peril with an illness. This gives us an opportunity to contribute to that. We want to support businesses in our area so having it at Rumrunners and having the opportunity to support the hospital is something that we can't pass up. It is so wonderful to see how many people open their hearts and wallets to give to this event. It is fun to see old and new faces every time we go and Rumrunner's does such a wonderful job with the food and libations and auction - every year the event makes more money and make it more fun."
Ralph Centalonzo, one of three owners and partners of Rumrunners, The Joint and RunAgrounds and with Todd Johnson, hosted the evening was enthusiastic in his praise of this year's Celebrity Chef Auction.
"I think most importantly, the success of this event is that we are in our 10th year, which shows how important this cause is to the community. It is a local cause and benefits families in our community, our home and we are now able to help support our community, especially with the kids. We were thrilled with the outcome of this year's event. Being our 10th year, every year we try to be better and raise more money, and I am so proud of this year's accomplishments. Our chefs, the vendors who supported us and most importantly those people who bought tickets and contributed to this great cause are the stars of this event. It involves all of us personally, especially those of us affiliated with our restaurants because one of our owners and partners, Todd Gately, suffered with cancer at the time we were first approached to do this fundraiser. As a partnership, we focus on the children's benefits and the kids with cancer in our fundraising efforts. What better way to support the community than to support the well being and health of the kids and have so much fun doing it?"
Ken Shoriak, system director of Foundation Operations for the Lee Memorial Health System Foundation spoke on behalf of the hospital.
"We are truly grateful for the generous support extended to our young cancer patients through the Rumrunners event. This year's event exceeded all expectations with more than $250,000 raised. The chefs, sponsors and those in attendance all deserve a well-earned round of applause for their efforts to provide lifesaving pediatric cancer care right here in our own community."