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Arts and Entertainment Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012 9 years ago

Key Player: Allison Silver Schwartz

by: Loren Mayo Black Tie Editor

Dr. Allison Silver Schwartz is standing barefoot in her closet, staring down four dresses on loan from Saks Fifth Avenue for the photo shoot: two sequined evening gowns, an asymmetrical floor-length number and a fuchsia cocktail dress.

She’s managed to get Nutella, one of her two Goldendoodles, into the crate, but has completely forgotten to put away Finnigan, who is galloping around the second story of the house like a wild mustang, barreling around furniture and a roaring vacuum cleaner.

Schwartz’s husband, Hardy, the medical director of the Non-invasive Cardiovascular Lab at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, is at work And the Schwartzes’ three children, Hadleigh, Graycen and Clementine, are in school at Pine View.

Schwartz has just finished fussing with her bangs, which she cut recently at the suggestion of her friend, Sally Schule, but has decided they are too much maintenance. She’s an expert at makeup but has no patience for hair and, therefore, has already made the decision to grow out her bangs.

“I grew up in Toronto, and Hardy grew up in Montreal,” Schwartz says. “We both went to McGill University, both went to medical school at Queens University and both decided to do our residency training in the states. I was training in emergency medicine and wanted trauma center-type of training — I wanted to be in the nastiest place ever to see everything that happened.”

So, the couple moved in 1997 to Philadelphia for the next six years. But when Schwartz’s grandmother, who was living in Hollywood, Fla., at the time, became ill, the two went to visit. Never having set foot on the west coast of Florida, they decided to explore and headed down I-75 toward Naples.

“As soon as we got on the causeway to Sanibel, it was over — we fell in love,” Schwartz says. “We thought we were on some other crazy world. This was 15 years ago, and we were both finishing our programs. I was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and waiting for my husband to finish his training. We had the option to move wherever we wanted, and, at that point we were going to Captiva so often that we wondered why we should keep going on vacation and being sad every time we left.”

They looked at Naples and Fort Myers, but didn’t think either city was a fit — professionally or personally. They continued on to Sarasota and found that they liked the downtown area and that the city was unlike the set of strip malls they had seen in other cities.

“We were looking for what we had in Philadelphia scaled down,” Schwartz says. “We met with the groups here, saw the hospital and were truly impressed with its size, the medical community and the physicians. The big draw is you can walk to the hospital from our house in Southside. My husband’s office is less than a mile away.

At first, the Schwartzes were living in Palmer Ranch, but Hardy Schwartz was getting called back into the hospital so often that he was sleeping there. Sometimes he would spend as many as three hours a day just driving back and forth.

Two years ago, on Easter Sunday, Schwartz was driving through Southside Village with her children, who were napping in the car, when she saw the yellow two-story house with a white picket fence and a “for sale” sign. She called the Realtor, who, seven months prior, had found the family their house in Palmer Ranch.

“I told my husband to meet me, and he was fuming because he was working,” Schwartz says. “I said, ‘Look at your watch and tell me how long it takes us to get to this house.’ Two minutes. Tada! We bought it that Wednesday and sold the other house two weeks later.”

Because of their strong connection to Sarasota Memorial Hospital, the Schwartzes decided four years ago to attend and sponsor the Corinthian Gala, which benefits the Sarasota Memorial Health Care Foundation.

“It’s something I felt strongly about supporting as individuals,” Schwartz says. “When I was at the gala, I met Lisa Intagliata from the foundation. She mentioned me joining the Key to the Cure committee, but I had never been and didn’t know a thing about it.”

The following week, Schwartz attended a committee meeting and found her niche in Sarasota.

“I met people I had seen around town, had read their names somewhere or seen a photo or an article written by them,” she says. “I was involved with Temple Beth Sholom and had co-chaired the gala, so this gave me a chance to meet all kinds of people who were not part of that.”

Schwartz felt she became a part of the Sarasota community as opposed to just the school community.

“It was eye opening, exciting and made me really happy, because a lot of people ended up being very helpful,” Schwartz says. “I met people from Make-A-Wish and Scott Anderson, from the Gulf Coast Community Foundation. I don’t even think I knew what the foundation was. But I thought, ‘Wow, there’s a group that helps other people raise money,’ and Scott helped me with a Temple Beth grant.”

The Key to the Cure bra decorating campaign in 2009 was so successful and fun that the Key to the Cure committee, which had not been known to repeat any Key to the Cure theme, continued it the following year. In 2010, Schwartz became the “bra chair” for Key to the Cure.

Schwartz will co-chair the 2012 Key to the Cure Kickoff Party, which takes place from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18, at Saks Fifth Avenue, with Schule, Saks general manager.

“It’s one of the most successful Key to the Cure events in the entire country,” Schwartz says. “Every Saks does it slightly different — some have a formal black-tie dinner. Ours is more of a fun, mingling and participatory event. This year, we’re going to be selling special pink commemorative breast-cancer awareness keys on pretty pink lanyards.”

The keys are blank, so guests may take them to a hardware store and customize them. Each key costs $50, or three can be purchased for $100, and each lanyard contains a numeric code. Nearly every code corresponds to a prize. Prizes range from Emi Jay hair ties and a pink beach cruiser to a pair of Jimmy Choos and a one-week stay on Siesta Key. The committee hopes to raise $20,000 from the lanyard sales alone.

“The swag bags are amazing this year and have been organized by Sabrina Cullen,” Schwartz says. “We have 600 because we ran out at 500 last year.”

In addition to Key to the Cure, Schwartz, along with her husband, Harold Johnson and Krista Toomre, is also co-chairing Planned Parenthood’s 2013 Dinner March 5. She’s been on the committee for the past eight years.

As Schwartz says that the focus is to get younger professionals to the dinner, she receives a text from her friend and fellow Key to the Cure committee member, Vanessa Opstal, who says Influence on St. Armands wants to donate items to Key to the Cure.

“See, this is why it’s helpful to know people!” Schwartz says.

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