The New York-themed fundraiser benefitted The Assistance Fund.

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The New York-themed fundraiser Carnavalia — A Celebration of Life! benefitted the incredibly worthwhile The Assistance Fund, to which I almost accidentally donated $1,013.

  • Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. When you read you begin with A B C, when you fundraise you begin with N Y C. (Musical dork party of 1 right this way please.) Carnavalia — A Celebration of Life! did so much right. It was held at the end of September at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, one of the hands-down nicest hotels in Orlando, and the theme was New York City. Who doesn’t love NYC?! Other than people who suffer from mysophobia or chrometophobia, of course. Proceeds benefited the incredibly worthwhile The Assistance Fund, which helps about 15,000 chronic or critical illness patients each year with medication expenses. Its goal is to see the day when no one goes without medication because of inability to pay.

    One of my bestest friends, Stacey, was my date for the evening. Not only did she leave her husband and adorable baby girl for the night, but she generously blow-dried my hair. I’m a firm believer that an awesome blowout is the key to movie-star hair, and Stacey gives an awesome blowout. Indulge me as I digress and shamelessly plug my friend’s amazingness. She’s co-owner of The Scarlett Olive Styling Lounge in Winter Garden, and she’s been doing my hair for forever and she’s absolutely fabulous and if one of us ever moves I’ll budget flights into my hair allowance.


    Stacey and I loved the NYC theme. :)


    Back to the event. We checked in and received our MetroCard (super cute!). Each card registered you for a chance to win a trip for two to NYC. We obviously didn’t win, or this post would be titled “BE JEALOUS B&%$#@S! I WON A FREE TRIP TO NEW YORK!” Since it’s not, we didn’t.

    New York-themed decorations greeted us as we walked to the cocktail reception, where the silent auction items were displayed. We grabbed drinks at the bar, which, to my surprise was a cash bar, and pursued the items up for bid. Just like Taste of the Nation Orlando, all bids were done through your cellphone, which I totally love. One item immediately caught my eye — The Capital Grille set that included the restaurant’s ridiculously awesome knives and a $50 gift card. I needed those knives. (Fast-forward three hours. I lost the knives.)


    I'm in a New York state of mind ...


    The ballroom and entertainment get high marks. Decorations were awesome and 99% of the entertainment was awesome — host Scott McKenzie of Mix 105.1-FM,  “Frank Sinatra,” magician couple (the quick changes were insane), Rock of Ages — liked it all.

    The other 1%? As “musical dork party of 1” I caught myself singing along to Defying Gravity from Wicked. Preetty sure I nailed it.

    The food was spectacular. Everyone got a salad, medium rare filet and salmon, and dessert, And everything was ridiculously good. I even got a gluten-free dessert! If you're ever looking for something to do in Orlando, I recommend trying to get invited to a wedding at The Ritz-Carlton.

    A great moment in the night was hearing from special guest Gail Robison, who receives help from The Assistance Fund for her $1,200+ a month multiple sclerosis medication. Her speech was moving and humbling, and brought tears to many eyes, including mine.

    Live auction hostess Tara was funny and impressive during the auction. Really good! But she came back onstage at the end for one last fundraising push. She opened with the admission that she came to the event not knowing what the heck it was for, but now that she knew she was glad. Weird. She also started hashtagging. #ALot. She referenced the beyond-fabulous Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon hashtag video, but she ruined it by saying it was JT and #CarsonDaly. What?! #nonono. And not to harp, but then she told everyone to donate $100, and since every table had 10 people, that would be $10,000 per table. Wait, what?! And then she repeated it.

    This leads me to the scariest part of the evening. You submitted donations via text, and there were two large screens showing the running total. At one point it was $18,897.00 or something like that. Well everyone at my table thought it would be neat to donate a dollar amount with change, so that it showed up in the .00 column. I volunteered, since I planned to donate anyway, and I picked $10.13, because 13 is my favorite number. Imagine my horror when the screens jump to $20,000+ and I get a text message saying “Thank you for your $1,013 donation!” SHUT THE FRONT DOOR! WHAT?! #NONONONONO!!!! #heartattack

    Thankfully, the very nice company running the cellphone donations immediately corrected the error. Otherwise, I'm sure I would have been single upon returning home. And come to find out I wasn't the only one this happened to. The .00 was just too alluring! #WarnPeopleTheDecimalPointDoesntWork!

    The evening was definitely one I'll never forget. Overall, it was a tremendous success, raising $300,000! Next year the party moves from NYC to “Spain.” But watch that decimal point! #CantWaitWontWait

Diana Mainieri's picture

Diana Mainieri

Experiencing Orlando in every way, Diana shares some of the most exciting, delicious, and entertaining things to do in Orlando through the To Do Orlando blog.

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