Annual Bollywood event raises $87,000 for scholarships

Annual Bollywood event raises $87,000 for scholarships
Pictured are scholarship students at a recent BBBS graduation: (l-r) are Gale Nelson, CEO/president BBBS Miami; Miriam Salazar; Neyda Raola, Scholarships Fund chairs along with the 2022 recipients.

After a two-year hiatus, the Lori Brener Scholarship Fund benefiting the Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) Miami program celebrated the non-profit’s Annual Bollywood fundraiser bringing in $87,000 of which $70,000 was awarded in scholarships to deserving and qualifying students from the BBBS mentoring program and previous recipient renewals.

This year’s celebration honored Norma Jean Abraham and the Abraham Foundation for their ongoing support, service and dedication to the mentoring and education program of BBBS.

Guests at this Bollywood-themed gala enjoyed entertainment by Making Moves Universal Dance Company under the direction of Dr. Niray Mehta; a cocktail buffet that included authentic Indian cuisine and other delicacies; an upscale auction and raffle with an authentic Indian bazaar with imported treasures. In addition, Celebrity DJ Jordan Sanchez from Revolution 93.5 kept the energy high as guests crowded the dance floor all evening.

Co-chairing this year’s event were Miriam Brener Salazar (Lori Brener’s mother), Betty Barrios, Neyda Raola and Sonia Gibson who extended a special thanks to sponsors: Kauffman Rossin, Risk Strategies Company, and Matthew Meehan Shine, WaterAmazon Printers, Pete Diaz Productions, Abha Narang of Mantra Exclusives, and celebrity hair designer Danny Jelaca who were also recognized for their assistance and support in producing the event.

Congratulations to Judy Pantoja, a former Gables Rotarian and friend who actively is involved every year with the UM Sports Hall of Fame Celebrity Fishing Tournament. Over the years, Judy has been sponsoring a boat (via Morgan Stanley) for four to five underprivileged kids from “The Home Team Miami,” a non-profit organization, and their coach to fish in the annual tournament. This year, Morgan Stanley’s team on a boat Judy chartered, The Lisa L, run by Captain Mike Puller, won. On board with them were four kids and their coach with Frank Welsh, head football coach at Coral Gables High.

By the way, the “Home Team Miami” is run by Alex Pou, also a Coral Gables High School coach, as well as football great Frank Gore, a Gables High graduate and UM Hall of Famer.

All three organizations benefited from this year’s win: UM Sports Hall of Fame, The Home Team Miami and Mike Puller’s The Fishing Experience. The winners asked that a portion of the prize be used for scholarships for the two junior anglers who placed.

In other news, there is an opportunity to clean up our environment the fourth Saturday of every month as a volunteer helping the Matheson Hammock staff to beautify this coastal park and keep our ocean ecosystem healthy. Gloves and trash bags are provided, but volunteers are encouraged to bring their own reusable gloves and tools to reduce waste.

The most recent cleanup was held June 25 with members of the Coral Gables Woman’s club among the many groups putting together teams to work at removing microplastics and trash, pulling exotic plant species and more at the park.

For future reference, note that participants under age 15 must have a parent/guardian present. Those wanting to join the CGWC team may contact Ruth at

Speaking of Matheson Hammock, Gables Rotarians are planning another July 4 picnic at the park during the day before fireworks around the county at night. If you are thinking of doing your own fireworks, think again. Check out the numerous city parks, etc. and let the professionals provide the show. Of course, during the day on that Fourth of July weekend, grilling out at home is fun but you can also pack a picnic and go to Deering Estate that is offering a reduced-price general admission of only $5 (ages 4 and up). Hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (Gates close at 4 p.m.)

Meantime, past president and president elect Frank Sexton is gearing up for the club’s long-awaited annual Chili Cook-Off to be held Oct. 30, at Fred B. Hartnett Ponce Circle Park in the Gables. With half the slots for chefs already in place, those wanting to participate as sponsor, chefs or vendors should visit

Summer fun and activities are everywhere and look no further than Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens. Fairchild invites us to explore, discover and let our imaginations go wild as we view 30 giant sculptures featuring 700,000 LEGO pieces, 800 life-size building blocks and 83-acres of paradise.  Nature Connects is an award-winning, record-breaking sculptural exhibition made entirely with LEGO pieces by acclaimed artist Sean Kenney. Admission is free to members and general admission rates apply for all others. This exhibit will run through Aug. 28.

Until next time, keep making each day count and share an act of kindness every day.

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A graduate of the University of Florida with a major in Spanish, Burns has an extensive background in advertising, marketing and reciprocal trade, travel , non profit consulting and management. Before joining Miami's Community Newspapers as a columnist and marketing specialist, Gloria was the Executive Director of the Jr. Orange Bowl Committee (6 yrs.) and first Executive Director of the Coral Gables Community Foundation (14 yrs.) and the Pinecrest Community Foundation (1 ½ yrs) . Burns' volunteer activities led her to become a columnist for Community Newspapers writing Gloria’s Gab, that focuses on the non-profit activity, and a host of an online show, Gloria's Gab LIVE. Gloria serves the board of the Rotary Club of Coral Gables as Civic and Charity Chair, and is involved in the club's International Committee. She is an active Life Member of the Jr. Orange Bowl Committee and is Secretary of the Merrick Festival. She serves on the board of directors of the Coral Gables Woman' Club as Publicity Chair and also coordinates the club's monthly fundraiser for various charities with Gringo Bingo at Clutch Burger. In addition, Gloria participates in numerous other charitable events and is a member of the Business Forum Group, Profit Inc., the Greater Miami Festival & Events Association and the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce. In other volunteer activity, Gloria helps Miami Christian School with fund-raising and PR; is an Ambassador and volunteers for events for A Safe Haven for Newborns. She is an active member of the Music Ministry at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church where she enjoys singing in the choir every weekend.


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