Community honors students and supports Medical Brigade

Pictured at the High Heels and Handshakes fundraiser are founder Christina Ward, The Capital Grille; Giovanini Colosi, Miami Marlins; Betty Alvarez, High Heels and Handshakes board member, and Denise Erwin, Season’s 52.

Coral Gables Friends of Education and the Miami-Dade Chapter of Thrivent Financial honored top students graduating from various elementary schools during their annual Elementary School Achievement Breakfast. Held at the host sponsor Westin Colonnade, the crowd of student, teachers and family were treated to a beautiful buffet prepared by the Westin executive chef Thomas Russo.

Joan Reitsma, owner of The Giving Tree, once again chaired the event and thanked the sponsors who made the event possible, including the GFWC Coral Gables Woman’s Club, Claire Frances Whitehurst, Education Foundation of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club of Coral Gables and Westin Colonnade with special thanks to general manager Mike Wurster, and Westin’s corporate catering manager Shirley McGovern.

Following a lovely invocation by Isabella Bendek of Gulliver Academy and the Pledge of Allegiance led by John Whiting of St. Thomas Episcopal Parish School, guests enjoyed presentations by both Mark Trowbridge, president and CEO of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, and Coral Gables Mayor Jim Cason. The impressive duo addressed the students with some words of advice before helping hand out the certificates and medals to the honorees from Coral Gables Elementary, Gulliver Academy, Miami Christian School and St. Thomas Episcopal School.

High Heels and Handshakes raised hundreds of dollars on Mar.14 for Medical Brigade in Ghana and Women for Women International while also collecting gently used high heels that were turned over to Dress for Success Miami. The fundraiser was held at Season’s 52 on Miracle Mile attracting guests who gathered in the beautiful bar area at the restaurant for drinks and assorted yummy flat breads, while participating in a raffle and generally having a great time networking with new people and some old friends.

Among the crowd were Season’s 52 manager Jeff Warren; High Heels and Handshakes founder Christina Ward, of The Capital Grille; Seasons 52 field sales manager Denise Erwin; High Heels and Handshakes board member Betty Alvarez; architect Burton Hersh; Lizz Wiegandt, Mary Kay director; Ana Pican, Artiflex Multimedia & Marketing; Maggie Anzardo, Southland Mall; Giovanni Colosi, Miami Marlins, and Carrie Loper, Fortun Insurance.

Also at Season’s 52, Chef Matt McCormick previewed Season 52’s new menu with a tasting dinner in one of the restaurant’s beautiful private dining areas that opens onto to sidewalk and then converts into a closed cozy room upon closing the doors. Flatbreads with assorted seasonal veggies artichokes, shitake mushrooms and more were served with seasonal cocktails, Strawberry Kir Royal and Strawberry Basil Fusion. New wines were paired with a three-course feast that included Columbia River Steelhead Trout and Lamb T-bones.

Taking full advantage of social media, a live video presentation before dinner gave invitees from all the participating Season’s 52 restaurants an opportunity to twitter questions about the menu, wines and more from Season 52’s experts.

Another great dining experience took place on Mar. 21 under the guidance of Coral Gables High School’s culinary arts program head, Chef Mercy Vera. The students wowed a crowd of almost 100 guests with a gourmet dinner in the courtyard outside the new Ralph Moore building at the school on a perfectly beautiful evening. Palme D’Or’s sous chef Diego Martinez, a former graduate of this program under Vera, finished off the evening’s program with a demonstration on the use of liquid nitrogen to make a sorbet dessert that was prepared in larger quantities by the students and served to a very appreciative audience.

In addition, Coral Gables Community Foundation took advantage of the evening to present the school with a check in the amount of $1,000 to help support this amazing culinary program.

Until next time, keep making each day count. If you want to submit information for this column, please send your news via email to

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About the Author

Gloria Burns
A graduate of the University of Florida with a major in Spanish, Burns has an extensive background in advertising, marketing and reciprocal trade, travel as well as non profit consulting and management. Active in many non profits, she received numerous awards across the community. Among her list of current responsibilities, Burns co-chairs two annual student recognition breakfasts for the Coral Gables Friends of Education; helps coordinate charity partners for the Westin Colonnade's Annual Give Kids the World Breakfast; serves on the board of directors of Doral Business Council; is Parliamentarian and serves on the board of the GFWC Coral Gables Woman’s Club; serves the board of the Rotary Club of Coral Gables and is Publicity Chair; and is a member of the Jr. Orange Bowl Committee. Gloria is also an active member of the Music Ministry at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, where she sings in the choir. She can be reached at

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