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Boca’s benefactors outdid themselves at the OPALs

Boca’s collective generosity was off the charts at the 22nd annual OPAL Awards scholarship fundraiser.

Not only were five unsung philanthropists honored. But a record $300,000 was raised in a live auction and donation request, OPAL co-chair and auctioneer Neil Saffer told Boca Voice later.

Rotary Club of Boca Raton president Vanessa Havener welcomed 400 people. And in a green gown had her own red carpet moment. “We live in an extraordinarily generous part of the world,” she said.

Videos on their lives gave an Oscar quality to the Outstanding People and Leaders event in Boca West Country Club last weekend. “Past honorees recommended, and they had to be someone who made a difference,” co-chair Jan Savarick explained.

Honoree Jerry Kramer at the podium, at right, FAU president Dr. John Kelly, FAU vice president Danita Nias, event co-chair Jan Savarick and Debra Kramer.

FAU scholarship provider Aubrey Strul introduced honoree Jerry Kramer. He went from a child of the Depression to a real estate mogul. His largesse included raising $2 million to train 40 rescue dogs for returning veterans.

“Jerry came to this country with 25 cents in his pocket,” said FAU president Dr. John Kelly. Tables of FAU students chanted “We love Jerry.”

Former honoree Arthur Adler introduced honorees Doris and Neil Gillman. They outfitted a new pediatric dental surgery room at Caridad Center. They constructed needed facilities at Florence Fuller Child Development Centers. They helped Sweet Dream Makers provide 5,000 beds for kids in need.

Ron Gallatin introduced Leon and Toby Cooperman, who each have their own accomplishments. He made Bloomberg’s “50 most influential list” and the Horatio Alger Association. She has a lifelong interest helping people with special needs.

Not to leave out honoree Kindness Matters 365 founder Laura Reiss. “Laura came here 10 years ago with a value system for people to share. Now Kindness Matters is in 100 schools across 12 states,” said former OPAL winner Summer Faerman.

At the 22nd annual OPAL Awards were, from left, past honoree Arthur Adler, event co-chair Spencer Siegel and honorees Doris and Neil Gillman.

Boca’s famous sculptor Yaacov and his arts educator wife Sue Heller were honored as Rotarians. Marta Batmasian and Marilyn Weinberg did the introduction honors. And Kim Champion passed around a Hats Off to Yaacov and Sue congrats card to sign during cocktails.

Club members gathered around well-known benefactor Bobby Campbell’s table for a lifetime achievement award. “Bobby’s not just a philanthropist. When he sees a need, he fills it,” Saffer said. “I’m a lucky guy. I have all of you as friends,” Campbell said.

Marine veteran Therans Jerome wowed the crowd with eloquent thanks for his electrical engineering scholarship. “It’s a chance for people like me who come from struggling backgrounds,” he said to a standing ovation.

New faces included Roger Flanagan in a kilt of his own clan’s tartan. Cathy McCann is director of Taylor 2: Paul Taylor Dance Company. Former Future Stars winner Ava Faith sang the National Anthem.

By Marci Shatzman

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