Baptist Health Uses Champagne, Sparklers, and Peer Pressure to Presell 2012 Gala Tables

Photo: Tim Saltsman

Organizers are still tallying proceeds from the Baptist Health Foundation’s fourth annual Pineapple Sauté and Sip, which took place Friday night at the Ritz-Carlton, Coconut Grove, but one thing is certain: They have already sold 20 tables for next year’s fund-raiser, nearly half of the goal of 50. The 2012 event will bring changes—a move to the Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne and a switch to Saturday night, again on Mother’s Day weekend, which could be risky. Organizers decided to try the presell pitch to get guests to commit to the revised event.

“It will be the fifth year, [and] we have outgrown the Ritz Coconut Grove. When you get an event that is just about to take off and to kick it off to the next level, this was the way to do it,” said the foundation's senior event strategist, Lori Elsbree.

Each year the Sauté and Sip engages guests to prepare their own dinners at their tables, under the guidance of chef Jacques Van Staden, Celebrity Cruises’ vice president of food and beverage. As loud music played to energize the crowd, culinary students from Le Cordon Bleu Miami entered the ballroom carrying trays with cooking utensils donated by Bloomingdale’s at the Falls, and also save-the-date cards for next year’s fund-raiser. Event M.C. Cynthia Demos of CBS4-TV shared details about next year’s event—which organizers hope to turn into a full weekend of activities including a Saturday afternoon family event, the nighttime gala, and Mother’s Day brunch—and invited guests to pledge to purchase a table.  

“Anyone who pledged a table, we brought out a champagne bottle with sparklers taped around it. The sparklers were flaming. The energy was unbelievable in the room. We had somebody step up to say they wanted to be the first $50,000 supporter. So then we said, 'Who else can we count on?'” said Elsbree. “Peer pressure helped. They see everyone else [get the champagne], and they want it too.”  

In a matter of minutes, guests had pledged to purchase 20 tables. “We have positioned this event to grow. In this economy, this is going to be fantastic,” Elsbree said.

More than 315 people attended this year’s gala, which benefits the Baptist Health Breast Center’s Care Coach program. As part of the silent auction, guests could purchase a gift certificate for a mammogram, valued at $250. Organizers estimate that the event raised nearly $200,000. In addition to Celebrity Cruises and Bloomingdale's at the Falls, sponsors included 22 Core Construction, which donated beach towels for each guest to tie into the theme of “California Cool.”

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