- January 9, 2019
The Make-A-Wish Southern Florida organization has followed a familiar template with its Cooking For Wishes event in years past.
The event brought a number of guests to Michael's On East to cook their own meals under the watchful eyes of chef Jamil Pineda and Phil Mancini.
It worked (though the event space occasionally grew hot with the many stoves) year in and year out, but the organization decided to mix things up for its 2023 outing.
The latest Cooking For Wishes fundraiser took guests through the looking glass to a transformed Circus Arts Conservatory on Feb. 23. The annual event adopted a comprehensive Alice In Wonderland theme that started with Alice welcoming guests at the entrance and the Mad Hatter beckoning crowds into the space.
"I wanted to take this (event) down the rabbit hole from Michael's On East to the Circus Arts Conservatory," co-chairwoman Terri Klauber said. "We've doubled our audience."
Those near-450 people filled the circus space decked out in their wackiest Alice-inspired clothes from Red Queen makeup designs to Chesire Cat costumes.
The night helped the organization provide wishes for dozens of local children a year. Those wishes can take many forms, from meeting celebrities to being a firefighter for a day.
"Some can be a simple shopping spree," Make-A-Wish Southern Florida COO Richard Kelly said. "Some are more elaborate."
One of those more elaborate wishes was provided to wish child Silas Bichler, who traveled to Europe to meet the pope in 2017. Bichler and his mother Tonia attended Cooking for Wishes as a Make A Wish family.
There were also surprises in store. Local Make-A-Wish child Jocelyn Alvis — who said she always wanted to play in the snow — was welcomed onto the stage with her family to have her wish granted with the help of a snow machine raining flurries overhead.
Guests mingled before settling down to cook a series of meals with instructions from Pineda and Mancini. By the end of the night, the crowd had successfully cooked and dined on seafood, steak and a vegetarian plate.
By the end of the night, the event had raised $650,000 which will provide more than 80 wishes for local children.