Saturday night was Ave Maria Preparatory School's Miracle Fest Casino Night. You mean you have never heard of Ave Maria? It is a special learning needs school (K-12) located out in Myakka City, but thankfully, their event was close by at Michael's On East!
From the hundreds of events I have attended over the years, can you believe I have never been to a casino night? I can't either, but it is true. I thought this one was exceptionally well done. There were scads of "gambling" opportunities scattered around the ballroom, all with play money of course, which you could use at the end of the night for prizes. From the time I got there to the time I left, those tables were full and rolling!
I also had never heard ABC7's Bob Harrigan as emcee and auctioneer, though I know he has done it lots of times. He was terrific! He even sounded like a real auctioneer. Bob, have you had special training? Every live auction item went for at least its value and sometimes more, so I would say that was a huge success, especially for an auction this late in the season, when we are all about live auctioned out.
Of course, the most poignant part of the evening was the program - first with Sister Gilchrist and then with Ave Maria Senior Christian Tidwell. Sister Gilchrist was justifiably proud to say that Ryan McCarthy, now the school's Director of Development, was her first student when she came to Sarasota. Sister also talked about several current students and how they had progressed with her "buddy's" help, meaning God. One had gone from drool having to be wiped from his mouth to now he was entering an Ivy League school. She also announced that the school was starting a two-year agricultural college called Shepard's Field.
A highlight was Christian Tidwell's speech (without a note, I might add) telling of his journey from being kicked out twice from Sister's former school to going to a public school where he got into drugs and gangs, to now graduating from Ave Maria, as he was "moved by a miracle" and turned his life over to God.
Veronica Brandon Miller told me that Goodwill has a partnership with Ave Maria in which Goodwill hires every graduate who desires to, to learn a trade and have employment with Goodwill because everyone, no matter the disability deserves the dignity of earning a paycheck.
Michael's did their usual delish buffet. I sure wish they would put their mushroom ravioli on the regular lunch menu. I would have that every time!
One really nice thing about the evening, there were lots of new people attending. That is always terrific to see. A really pleasant way to celebrate the end of season!
Veronica Brandon Miller, Sister Mary Gilchrist-Cottrill, and Dr. Paul Jaworski
Sister Therse and Robin Rogari, Chair
Molly Jackson and Ryan McCarthy, Dir. of Development
Dottie Garner and Rebecca Blitz
Renee Phinney and Jen McAlister
Betsy Wyant and Ken Allen
Jessica Shaw and Erika Favorite
Nolan and Kelly Gardner
Peggy Roberts and Dennis Celorie
One of the busy gaming tables
One of the buffet tables
The table setting