Hundreds hit the road for Grape Escape XI
Weekend gala benefits HealthFirst heart care
October 10, 2012
Arguably one of the most anticipated charitable events of the year for Brevardians is this weekend.
About 260 Space Coast residents will make the trip to Palm Beach Gardens for the Grape Escape XI, put on by the Health First Foundation.
The weekend includes various meals and tastings, but culminates with a multicourse dining experience complete with wines at the restaurant Seasons 52. The evening also will feature a live and silent auction, including trips to North Carolina, California’s wine country and Dubai, a Goodyear Sky Blimp ride and a Wesche Jewelers heart-shaped pendant specifically designed each year for the Grape Escape.
Most attendees will stay the weekend at the Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort and Spa.
Although not a cheap ticket — sponsorship begins at $1,000 — tickets are snapped up early because of where the money goes. Proceeds benefit Health First Heart and Vascular Services.
“We all have to keep in mind this represents something that will touch either directly or indirectly everyone in our community,” said co-chair of the Grape Escape Dr. Larry Bishop, a MIMA dermatological surgeon, himself a heart attack survivor. “Between people who have heart disease or people who die from it or people like me who are survivors, this is an investment worth making.”
Money raised this year will go toward the purchase of Optical Coherence Tomography technology as well as an intravascular ultrasound unit. Both of these technologies will enable cardiac and vascular surgeons to better visualize problems within vessels of the body.
Last year, a little more than $350,000 was raised. Organizers are hoping to be closer to $400,000 this year.
“This is a hard-working committee,” Bishop said. “People were absolutely dedicated to making this a success. It’s been really amazing.”
This is the first year Adrienne Chandler is a committee member, although she has attended the event in the past and has done some behind-the-scenes work. This year, she’s tasked as event designer, helping set up everything from the venue space to the lighting. She says the committee is filled with rookies and veterans, including Bishop and Russell Holmes, the man they call the wizard behind the curtain for all the work he contributes. Chandler said the mix of people is an inviting atmosphere.
“The Health First Foundation is so well-run, it makes you want to come back and help out,” she said. And while this year’s event has sold out, first-year committee member Leasha Flammio-Watson said work already has begun for next year.
“People may not be able to come down and enjoy the event this year, but there will be a Grape Escape XII, and there needs to be ongoing community effort to provide awareness and enthusiasm,” said Flammio-Watson, who will share emcee and auctioneer duties Saturday with her husband, Greg Watson, FLORIDA TODAY’s sales and marketing director. “You don’t have to be a foodie or wine aficionado to enjoy Grape Escape. It’s for anybody in this community who is passionate about health care.”