8th Annual Hearts and Stars Gala Lights Up the Night
Raises Record Funding for Miami’s Little Lighthouse Foundation
by Jeanne-Marie Phillips
Everybody was a star—or at least felt like one at the 8th Annual Hearts and Stars Gala held this at an ultra-exclusive waterfront mansion on Miami’s Star Island. After all, who couldn’t look and feel amazing at a grand waterfront estate alive with the excitement of exotic costumed performers, artistic lighting, inviting dance tunes, and sexy, undulating bodies moving to the beat under the Miami stars. And who couldn’t help but feel like a star knowing that they were helping to raise vital funding for one of the most important organizations helping South Florida’s children in need.
True to its Mystic Dreams theme, this year’s gala brought together festivities, fantasy and fun for an evening as distinctive as Miami Beach itself, with its glittering backdrop of sea and sky.. Welcoming entering guests were graceful acrobats perched atop giant sculptures of the moon, stars, while bejeweled mermaids basked lazily at the water’s edge and dancers clad in little more than colorful scarves billowing in the nighttime breeze worked their own brand of magic. Adding to the excitement was bubbling champagne, caviar, chocolate as well as hundreds sexy ladies and dapper gents dressed to the nines—and primed for plenty of Miami-style posing.
An Unforgettable Evening
Oh…and not to be overlooked was a sumptuous array of samplings from Miami’s top restaurants and the multiple outdoor bars where libation of every stripe flowed liberally throughout the evening.
For eight straight years, the Hearts and Stars Gala has ranked as an event of the first magnitude, not to be missed in a city known for its glamor and style. In case you weren’t there, be sure to make it to their equally popular Holloween bash (details to follow in the next issue) or next year’s spring gala.
This year, more than 750 guests turned out in their fashionable best to partake in an evening that has become a Miami tradition—the place to see and be seen as the spring season opens. Notable attendees included Real Housewives of Miami star Lisa Hochstein and famed plastic surgeon Lenny Hochstein, Janice Combs, Bravo’s Southern Charm star Whitney Sudler Smith, Miami Dolphins linebacker, Kiko Alonso and Little Lighthouse Founders, Aaron Resnick, Rob Sena, Charlie Venturi and LLF’s Executive Director Jonathan Babicka.
Partygoers were treated to a top shelf open bar featuring Ketel One Vodka, Casa Nobles Tequila, Oak & Cane Rum, Larceny Bourbon, Nysus Beer, and Italian sparkling wines from Tita Italia Wines & Delicatessen. Top South Florida’s top restaurants tempting guests with tastings included, Kaori, C’enzo’s, Ola, and Miami Cake Lounge. In addition, guests enjoyed FIJI water and La roix sparkling water. Music was provided by Marcos Noel, Patrick Pizzorni, and Willy Monfret.
Event beneficiary the Little Lighthouse Foundation (LIF) assists children and families in South Florida who struggle with educational, financial, and medical hardships. LLF’s support is derived from recruiting and educating passionate, caring, socially conscious volunteers and taking advantage of their talents through its programming and beneficiary charities. LLF currently has 24 proprietary programs and more than 2,000 volunteers and 450 volunteer opportunities at 12 partner facilities. In 2016, it helped to better the lives of over 4,000 underserved children.
The evening’s hugely popular fundraising raffle offered as a grand prize a JetSmarter VIP Package valued at over $40,000. It included two round trip jet shuttles, private yacht charter, five-night stay at a Park City, Utah mansion and a private dinner for 10 by catered by Chef Walter Martino and much more. The silent auction also featured a host of irresistible offerings.
The Little Lighthouse Foundation Shining Light Award was presented to Justin Keener of JMJ Financial, a community member who embodies the spirit of philanthropy and significantly furthers LLF’s mission. LLF also presented its Volunteer of the Year award to Loren Psaltis, who generously donates her time to help those less fortunate.
The evening’s Keener Matching Grant program brought multiple donors onto the Stage of Legends, raising $100,000 towards Little Lighthouse Foundation programming.
The gala itself is the highlight of a special weekend of festivities that include an opening party held this year at The Deck at Island Gardens. Friday also included a private, invitation-only event for top donors at yet another private waterfront mansion. Those fortunate enough to be able to opt for the VIP package enjoyed all of the events with private bottle service at the gala for themselves and a host of friends.
All in all, it was a memorable evening.
For more information about the Little Lighthouse Foundation, visit http://thelittlelighthouse.org.