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Ring in the new year at the Rec Center

By Staff | Dec 29, 2010

Preparing for the City of Sanibel’s New Year’s Eve Celebration at the Sanibel Recreation Center are, from left, event organizer Barry Roth and Sanibel Recreation Center staff-members Chad Gosselin, Marci Stutsman, Matt Fannon, Nick Brown, Jimmy Gennity and Jesse Jarrett.

Tonight, the Sanibel Recreation Center will host the second annual City of Sanibel New Year’s Eve party, a celebration of community togetherness and a chance for islanders to support the financial assistance program for the Rec Center’s many beneficial youth programs.

“In 2009, when the City’s budget got tight and could no longer provide financial assistance for some of their programs, I asked the City manager if I could do some kind of a fundraiser,” said island resident and active Rec Center participant Barry Alan Roth.

He found out that it would take $40,000 to keep the financial assistance program available to island residents and employees.

“I took up this cause because I like to use the Rec Center — I’m also, ironically, the first lifetime member,” Roth said. “I’ve always been impressed with the Rec Center and the Sanibel School, and when I heard they were having a tough time with financial assistance for their summer and holiday camps and their after-school programs, I wanted to help. I’ve been on this island for over 20 years and it’s just a wonderful place to participate. I love supporting it.”

As a start to his fundraising, Roth sold signs for less than $200 that displayed the names of businesses and families and individuals that would hang on the Rec Center walls in the “Hall of Sponsors” from November of 2009 to February of 2010.

Lisa Newmeyer-Cochrane, left, and Richard Johnson sold raffle tickets during the party.

Various organizations, such as the Sanibel-Captiva Lions and the Sanibel-Captiva Kiwanis, the latter of which Roth is a member, also donated generously to the cause.

The fundraiser culminated in a big New Year’s Eve celebration at the Rec Center, where Roth and almost 500 islanders raised additional money in admissions, a raffle and bingo.

The 2009 fundraiser — including signs, donations, and the New Year’s Eve party — ultimately produced $43,000, and allowed the financial assistance program to continue for another year.

For the second annual event, tonight at the Rec center from 8 p.m. to 12:15 a.m., Roth hopes to generate an even higher turnout — and therefore, more much needed funds — than last year’s 490 attendants.

To help facilitate — and feed — a projected crowd of more than 500 people, many island businesses have pitched in with donations of food, beverages, decorations and valuable prizes.

Former Sanibel City Councilman Steve Brown, left, rings in 2010 at the Sanibel Recreation Center with event organizer Barry Alan Roth.

“Everyone has been so generous and wonderful in donating items for the party,” Roth said, highlighting the all-you-can-eat aspect of the event menu, which includes chicken fingers, Dietz & Watson Deli, fruit and veggie trays, cheese and pepperoni pizza, hot dogs, mini-donuts, root beer floats, Coca-Cola and Diet Coke, gourmet coffee and hot tea, freshly squeezed juices, water, Dilly Bars, chips, pretzels and cake — all of which were donated by various island businesses.

But some things will be a little different this year.

“Last year we only had one magic act, but this year we’ll have strolling magicians — Professor Patches and Robbie the Ringmaster — from 8:30 to 9:30 and a magic act featuring the two of them from 10 to 10:30,” Roth said.

There will be two dancefloors — one for adults 18 and over only, and one for families. The adults’ dancefloor will feature live entertainment by island musician Gene Federico from 8:30 to 11:45 p.m., and a special family “Dance your Tush Off!” will take place on the family floor from 10:40 to 11:45 p.m.

But Roth said the piece de resistance of the whole New Year’s Eve extravaganza will be the adults only bingo game beginning at 8:15 and running until 10 p.m..

Rec Center staffers wore some crazy hats on New Year's Eve. Pictured from left are Dave DeFonzo, Jared Vanegas (kneeling) Billy Lees, Kayla Schuneman and Ashley Burns.

“We have a limit of 50 and advance tickets cost $85 in advance, $100 at the door. The reason the tickets are so expensive is because we’re offering thousands of dollars in prizes, ranging to everything from a $100 gift certificate to Thistle Lodge to items valued at $500,” Roth said. “I wish I was eligible to play bingo this year because the prizes are just that fantastic — and every cent of those tickets goes to support the Rec Center programs.”

Advance tickets to attend the party, available only at the Rec Center, are $15 for adults 18 and older and $12 for children. Kids six and under are free. At the door, tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for children.

“We extend the invitation to the whole community. Our theme this year is ‘Come Together,’ because this island always comes together,” Roth said. “This is a time to be together, to have fun, to eat, to have some good fun, to dance, to be entertained. There’s something for everyone.”

More information about the New Year’s Eve party, sponsorship opportunities, financial assistance and the Sanibel Recreation Center is available at www.MySanibel.com‘>www.MySanibel.com and by contacting Barry Alan Roth, 313-9591, or the Sanibel Recreation Center, 472-0345.

The Rec Center is located at 3880 Sanibel-Captiva Road.

Robbie the Ringmaster, pictured performing at the Captiva Memorial Library this summer, will be joined by Professor Patches during a special magic show at the New Year’s Eve party.

Happy New Year!