The honoree was FAU president Dr. John Kelly, but all eyes were on the kids.
They gathered on stage under a big sign that said Bid from the Heart. They each held a sign for Best Foot Forward Foundation, the nonprofit helping them go to college.
“My journey has been messy and…I wouldn’t even have graduated high school without them,” Adrianna Turner told the crowd. “Now I’m about to graduate from FAU with a B.A. in sociology. Foster kids are often overlooked.”
More than 500 people were in the ballroom at BFF’s annual fundraiser at the Polo Club Saturday night.
This was the last ask of the evening. After silent and live auctions, you would think people were asked out. But bid signs went up so fast to give, the count on the Jumbo tron couldn’t keep up with it. The number far exceeded their goal of $200,000.
BFF co-founders Donna Biase and Debbie Ellman were already emotional. The two women started the nonprofit nine years ago, and their only champion was school board chairman Frank Barbieri. He was there and still on their board.
“Now we’re in 47 schools and helping 200 students,” Ellman told the crowd.
This year, County Commissioner Bob Weinroth read a proclamation and declared Saturday Best Foot Forward Day.
Chamber president Troy McClellan, Mayor Scott Singer, Boca Regional Hospital CEO Jerry Fedele and most of the city leaders were there. Their Dare to Dream gala was a sellout with 66 sponsors, including honorary chair Barbara Gutin, Laura and Shaw McCutcheon, Marilyn and Jay Weinberg, Trend Capital Management, Office Depot, GL Homes and Paradise Bank.
They partner with everyone from Legal Aid to Palm Beach State College.
“Your circumstances will never define you,” FAU’s president said as the 2019 Champion of Children. Asked earlier, Kelly attributed the honor to staff.
Joe Murray, an assistant dean, brought a program for homeless and foster kids with him from Ohio. Now there’s a statewide network, and assistant director Jasmine Moore’s helping 80 FAU kids “from acceptance to graduation,” she said.
Also recognized from the dais were board members Paul Kilgallon, Lorraine Cross, J.C. Perrin, Dr. Ian Saltzman, Marjorie Margolies, Jennifer Jager and Lisa Wheeler. Event chairs were Lisa and Jim Wheeler. Auctioneer and emcee was Jason Alpert.
By Marci Shatzman