By LINDA CHION KENNEY
A Kid’s Place of Tampa Bay is gearing up for its 10th annual black-tie gala, which raises funds for children in crisis who find at the much-beloved shelter a safe haven from abuse, abandonment and neglect.
Set for Feb. 17 at The Motor Enclave in Tampa is the A Kid’s Place Fostering Hope Black Tie Gala, which in its first year welcomed about 110 attendees, according to organizer Lyndsee Rodriguez. This year’s event, she added, is expected to draw 450 to 500 guests.
“Our community believes in our mission and loves these kids just as much as we do,” said Rodriguez, who plans events for A Kid’s Place in Brandon, at 1715 Lithia Pinecrest Road. “We receive our kids from Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties, ripped from their homes, with everything taken away from them that they love.”
However, they do not lose their siblings, as A Kid’s Place is driven to keep brothers and sisters together. That was one of the founding missions of former Hillsborough County Commissioner Dottie Berger MacKinnon, who worked tirelessly to secure the land, funding and community support that brought the residential shelter to fruition 15 years ago. She answered the call of judges who said they needed a safe, stable and home-like situation to shelter children from a volatile home life until decisions about their residency could be determined through the courts.
MacKinnon died in 2013 at age 71, and her memory runs deep at A Kid’s Place, which opened with two residential houses and now with five is able to accommodate up to 60 children, ages 0 to 18.
The February gala aims to raise funds to support A Kid’s Place services, including providing residents with shelter and attention to their medical, therapeutic and educational needs.
The black-tie gala is the nonprofit’s major annual fundraiser, and this year provides a unique experience for attendees who pay extra to take a thrill ride with a professional driver on the 1.72-mile track at The Motor Enclave in Tampa, at 6500 Motor Enclave Way. The business is billed as Florida’s premier private garage community, motorsports and events venue, with on- and off-road experiences.
“We’re the first to use the event space, and it promises a lot of twists and turns,” Rodriguez said. The price for a thrill ride is $200 per person, or $400 per car, which is in addition to the gala ticket. Two of the three cars can accommodate three riders, plus the professional driver. The third car seats one passenger.
The gala ticket price is $350 per person and sponsorship packages are available. Both the Gold and Silver packages include eight gala tickets as well as other benefits. The Patron package includes two tickets. The package prices are $5,000, $3,000 and $1,200, respectively.
A Kid’s Place’s Diamond Gala: A Decade of Fostering Hope, presented by Homes by West Bay, will take place on Saturday, Feb. 17, and is set to run from 4:30 to around 11:30 p.m.; it precedes the nonprofit’s annual golf tournament in October and its annual holiday stroll in late November through December.
Gabrielle Okun works with Rodriguez at A Kid’s Place, and is responsible for facilitating fundraisers that include the efforts of schools, businesses, groups and individuals.
“There are so many different opportunities to get involved,” Okun said. “Some people come to campus to deliver food to kids. There are drives for clothing and food and anything else you believe a child would want and need.”
That includes babies who love toys and “teenage boys who would love masculine smelling soaps,” Okun said. It includes clothes, shoes, underwear and hygiene materials, including ethnic hair-care products, she added.
“Everything that your children need, our children need, too,” Okun said. “Our children are just like the children in your lives, and they really do want love and to be cared for and appreciated.”
For more on A Kid’s Place of Tampa Bay, ways to help, donations needed and Diamond Gala tickets and information, visit www.akidsplacetb.org or call 813-381-3839.