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Irma the uninvited guest waylays nonprofits' fundraisers

TAMPA — No one invited Irma to their party last week, but she showed up anyway, waylaying the carefully-laid plans of numerous non-profits counting on achieving significant fundraising goals.

Instead, community safety was paramount as organizers rushed to inform guests, sponsors and vendors of cancellation announcements. Caterers took their perishable foods to hurricane shelters, florists scrambled to cancel deliveries and decorators stashed their centerpieces.

Now, as the bay area counts its blessings, the race is on to reschedule before the calendar fills up.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay quickly bumped their 19th annual gala, the Art of Helping Children, to Oct 13, "a difficult but practical decision," said CEO Stephen Koch. With 600 people attending the $300-ticket gala, their biggest fundraiser of the year typically nets about $500,000.

"We have a close relationship with the Hilton (downtown Tampa) and they said, 'Here's the best date left, better grab it.' It gives us several weeks to realign but it's close enough that we don't lose a lot of momentum," Koch said. "We'll use the extra time as an opportunity to get a few more sponsors and a few more guests."

Despite the black-tie bash being a fixture on the social scene in the height of hurricane season, the agency did not have a contingency plan.

"There are so many possibilities that can happen," Koch said. "We find that people are very willing to work with you because they want to see us succeed, too. The best contingency plan is to work on those relationships."

Irma's arrival bumped the Glazer Children's Museum's colorful Imagination gala to Sept. 28. CEO Jennifer Stancil strongly believes the 600 guests who planned to attend will support a Thursday night party in light of the circumstances.

"This annual celebration is critical to ensuring our operations continue at the highest quality," Stancil said. "The hurricane could affect attendance, demands from relief agencies could affect auction results, but after being in contact with my peers in Houston and Louisiana, our mission to be a beacon to children and families is more important than ever during the recovery process."

Tampa Museum of Art spokesperson Nancy Seijas-Kipnis is spreading word that New York nightclub icon Susan Bartsch and eight fashion designers will now showcase their creations at CITY, Art-A-Porter on Oct. 6.

"Susan Bartsch said the show must go on," Seijas-Kipnis said. "Thanks to our wonderful partnerships with our vendors no losses are anticipated from the delay. We're all excited about this event and want to see it happen."

It's too soon to joke that Tampa Theatre might have chosen sci fi action Waterworld for its 16th annual WineFest that was to take place Sept. 8 to 10.

The theme will remain Wine's World and the 1992 comedy flick, Wayne's World, will be screened when vendors are available, said marketing director Jill Witecki. "The challenge will be finding a date before we close for six weeks in November and December for our restoration work."

Champions for Children was to have celebrated 40 years of programs to end child abuse at Higgins Hall on Sept. 14 .The staff is still researching a new date for the anniversary luncheon and presentation of the Cornelia Corbett Child Advocate Award.

"Even if we are able to re-schedule, people's minds (and pocketbooks) may be tapped out," said Liz Kennedy, development director. "I think it (Hurricane Irma) will affect every organization who depends upon these types of breakfasts or luncheon fundraisers. Tampa certainly was lucky so, maybe in a few weeks, everyone will be back in "party mode." At this point, we are just grateful our city was spared the damage that could have occurred."

Other postponements include:

MacDonald Training Center has rescheduled its annual Shattering Barriers dinner benefit to Oct. 12 at the Tampa Sheraton Riverwalk

The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce will now present its 2017 Small Business of the Year Awards on Oct. 18, still at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts.

Contact Amy Scherzer at

Irma the uninvited guest waylays nonprofits' fundraisers 09/13/17 [Last modified: Thursday, September 14, 2017 12:56pm]
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