Hearts of Gold raises over $300,000
ORLANDO, FLORIDA (May 23, 2016) – On Friday, May 20, Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida’s Hearts of Gold concert presented by Reed Nissan raised over $300,000, topping even last year’s record-breaking event. Hundreds of Central Florida’s elite business and philanthropic leaders gathered at Hard Rock Live to eat, drink, and celebrate the transformative power of music in support of the homeless men, women, and children in our community.
Over the past 23 years, Hearts of Gold has earned a reputation for fantastic live entertainment and a fun, casual atmosphere – all for a great cause. The event raises money to support the Coalition’s crucial programs and services. The organization provides not only food and shelter to more than 600 men, women, and children each day, but also case management, educational programs, job skills training, veteran’s services, counseling, substance abuse recovery, on-site daycare, and more.
Matt Shenk, a local singer-songwriter and longtime friend of the Coalition, kicked off the evening with an acoustic set while attendees enjoyed the pre-concert reception, eating, drinking, socializing, and using their smartphones to bid on unique items and experiences in the silent auction.
In a short video message before the concert, Alex Martins – CEO of the Orlando Magic and the Hearts of Gold Corporate Leader – thanked guests for attending and vowed to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, David Fuller of SunTrust, by setting a new fundraising record. In the months leading up to the event, Martins used his vast community connections to foster new relationships and secure sponsorships.
Aaron Hill, General Manager of presenting sponsor Reed Nissan, then took the stage to greet guests and introduce Fernando Varela. An internationally acclaimed tenor fresh off a European tour, Fernando served as the evening’s host, one of the entertainers, and the mastermind behind the brilliant lineup of talent.
For the opening song, Fernando was joined by his wife, Susan Williams Varela, for an emotional duet of “Because We Believe.” The song’s heartfelt lyrics – “Don’t give up, someone is with you” – are symbolic of the support the Coalition provides each client in their time of need.
Fernando then introduced Craig Irvin and Devin Eatmon who accompanied him in a powerful three-tenor performance of “Hallelujah” and “Somewhere.”
Coalition President/CEO Brent A. Trotter took a moment to thank those who made the event possible. As the presenting sponsor, Reed Nissan topped the list, followed by the corporate sponsors: 4 Rivers Smokehouse and The Coop, Bright House Networks, Hilton Grand Vacations, HomeMaker Premium Orange Juice, PNC Bank, Publix Super Market Charities, Universal Orlando, Vistana Signature Experiences, and Walt Disney World. He also thanked the many community and supporting sponsors, media partner WFTV 9 Family Connection, the generous local businesses that donated to the silent auction, and the dedicated volunteers who gave their time. Then, of course, it was time to get back to the show.
Pianist William Joseph, a crowd favorite at last year’s event, returned to Hearts of Gold bringing with him “violinist to the stars” Caroline Campbell. Caroline captivated the audience with her magnetic energy as they played unforgettable renditions of “Skyfall” and “Kashmir.”
Between songs, Varela revealed a surprise live auction item – the opportunity to play a round of gold with PGA pro Retief Goosen – which led to an intense bidding war. The once-in-a-lifetime experience raised $10,000 for the Coalition.
Fernando then encouraged the audience to support the Coalition’s meal serve program, which provided over 270,000 meals last year. He shared that, earlier in the month, he served dinner at the Men’s Service Center, experiencing firsthand the gratitude of those in need. A guest unexpectedly rose from the crowd, pledging $1,000 and challenging 25 others to match him.
As the entire ensemble gathered onstage for the final song, donations poured in, filling up the on-screen thermometer. The crowd rose in a standing ovation, celebrating both the immense talent of the performers and the new fundraising record they’d just set: $303,685.