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Rumrunners Celebrity Chef fundraiser set for Aug. 19

By Staff | Aug 14, 2015

In its 11th year, the Rumrunners Celebrity Chef Dinner is happening next week.

Usually a sellout, the event set for Wednesday is one of Cape Coral’s biggest events and fundraisers for the year and this year’s event promises to be even better than those preceding.

Chef Todd Johnson, his partners Ralph Centalonza and Todd Gately (Rumrunner’s in Cape Harbour) are the originators of this event. Seeing a need for more services offered locally for children, they joined with the Golisano Children’s Hospital and Barbara’s Friends to help raise funds so that children and their parents don’t have to travel or commute to Tampa or Miami for treatment.

Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida is the only acute care children’s hospital between Tampa and Miami. The children’s hospital opened in 1994 within Health Park Medical Center. The name was changed to Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida in 2012. Lee Memorial Health System Foundation, the primary fund raising entity for Golisano Children’s Hospital, is currently engaged to build and equip a new 128-bed children’s hospital on the campus of Health Park Medical Center which will be a state-of-the-art, family-centered, full-service hospital dedicated to the unique health care needs of children.

Barbara’s Friends Golisano Children’s Hospital Cancer Fund, named for Frank and Betty Haskell’s daughter Barbara, who died at the age of 32 from cancer, is also a beneficiary of this fundraiser. Barbara’s Friends works with the hospital to provide the gap in resources to fulfill the treatment and educational needs of the pediatric oncology and hematology patients and their families. Each year a different child currently receiving treatment is appointed the Barbara’s Friend Child of Hope and is the guest of honor for the event. This year’s Barbara’s Friend Child of Hope is Avery McCaskill and joining her is Caliah Russell’s, a former Barbara’s Friend Child of Hope.

Local chefs clamor to be a part of this event, both for the organization it supports and because they are able to talk to diners as they visit their station. The stations are spread apart so that people can enjoy the ambiance of Rumrunners’ waterfront location at sunset and the beautiful structure designed to take advantage of that beautiful water view. This year’s chefs include Todd Johnson (Rumrunners), the sponsoring restaurant. Returning are Harold Balink (Cru restaurant, Bell Tower), Brian Roland (Crave Culinaire, Naples and recent start of the television show, “Restaurant Startup”), and Norman Love (Norman Love Confections and winner of national and international awards). New this year is Neil Griffin (Il Cielo Sanibel). This gives people an opportunity to taste the creative genius of these chefs that they could only get if they visited each establishment.

“This is my fourth year doing this and this event has always been one I look forward to because I am in a room with extremely talented chefs and guests that are really in this for the cause,” said Roland. “We have been successful in raising more and more money for Golisano Children’s Hospital and Barbara’s Friends every year. Todd Johnson has been the pioneer of this and has been gracious to offer Rumrunners and his staff for the venue. I am really looking forward to it and showcasing what we do for a good cause.”

Katy Martinez, director of Development and the lead event organizer for this year’s event adds, “Over the last 11 years, Chef Todd and his Rumrunners group along with the other chefs have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help kids battling cancer in our Southwest Florida community. The Golisano Children’s Hospital is only possible with the fabulous community support from people like them and the people who attend these events. We are grateful that people step up to do something to make sure that we are able to treat children here that normally would have to travel to Tampa or Miami for treatment.”

The event is usually a sellout and is one of Cape Coral’s biggest and highest revenue events for fundraisers of this type and are usually sold out by the day of the event.

Considered to be the summer event to attend, it is an accomplishment for this time of the season but has been so popular that some of Cape Coral residents out of town fly back in town for this event.

Others travel from Naples, Fort Myers and Sanibel to attend.

Tickets are still available at $175, which includes cocktails, wine and sponsoring vodka and tequila stations, an incredible offering of food provided at chef’s stations by each celebrity chef, topped off with an auction filled with trips, memorabilia, chef’s dinners and other wonderful prizes, in addition to an open bar setup of Norman Love chocolates.

“The chefs invited to be a part of this event love the opportunity to chat with the guests at each station,” Johnson said. “This is a great buy to be able to taste food from different top ranking chefs in Southwest Florida, be able talk with them in a festive environment and capping the evening off with a champagne toast with a 1 in 75 chance to win a custom jewelry piece valued over $2,500 designed by award winning jewelry designer Mark Loren.

“I continue to be involved in this because people really love it it is local event serving a local charity,” Johnson continued. “There are so many great charities going on in this area and they are in the winter. Having this one in the summer is a true testament to how generous the local people are and they really look forward to it. Some of the guests at this event have been attending for the past 10 years and will be there this year also. As long as we are able to raise money for the children, we will continue to do it. This year the menu is going to be one of the best we have had. Rumrunners is doing a Chinese Five Spice beef tenderloin with secret seven sauce and Neil and Brian are doing seafood dishes and Harold will be doing a venison.

“If you are looking for an outstanding evening on Wednesday, Aug. 19, attendees say it this event is their favorite charity of the summer and is not to be missed. It is a great buy to be able to taste food from different chefs and talk with them and there will be three wine stations and we will have a Huern Dura tequila station and the vodka luge and this year is being sponsored by Tito’s.”

The event will be held at Rumrunners at Cape Harbour, 5848 Cape Harbour Drive, Cape Coral.

For tickets, contact Katy Martinez (Lee Memorial Health System Foundation) at 239-343-6076.