Sports Meets the Tropics at Fund-Raising Dinner

Alonzo Mourning takes the heat off the basketball court and puts it into events throughout Miami to benefit local charities.

February 15, 2006, 1:22 PM EST

Enormous renderings of Alonzo Mourning flanked the ballroom doors at the InterContinental Hotel Miami for Alonzo Mourning Charities Inc.'s Zo's Summer Groove Sizzling Summer Night benefit.

Alonzo Mourning's Charities Inc.'s Zo's Summer Groove Sizzling Summer Night benefit InterContinental Hotel Miami Friday, 07.15.05, 7 PM to 11 PM
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The Miami Heat's Alonzo Mourning does more than attract sports fans to the American Airlines Arena (AAA) during basketball season. His nonprofit organization, Alonzo Mourning Charities Inc., is responsible for Zo's Summer Groove, one of Miami's biggest fund-raising events of the year. It's four days of events that bring local and national celebrities and sponsoring companies to town to support charities that aid in the development and education of children and families. The highlights from this year's Groove, which took place July 12 to 16, included a youth basketball clinic for 1,700 kids, the Beck's Beer ZSG Comedy Show for 4,600 at the AAA, the Carnival Cruise Lines ZSG All-Star Basketball Game, and a sizzling tropical-theme gala sponsored by Publix.

The InterContinental Hotel Miami was the setting for the gala, Sizzling Summer Night, organized by Ann Deutch of the foundation with the help of a committee. More than 1,100 guests—including the Heat's Dwayne Wade and Eddie Jones, and Robert Horry of the San Antonio Spurs—attended the event, hosted by sports commentator Kenny Smith and actress Victoria Rowell. To give all guests the star treatment, Deutch positioned mock paparazzi in the hotel's mezzanine area—away from the real photographers on hand to shoot the real celebs—to snap photos of regular guests as they entered. Guests could also pose in front of a colorful turquoise backdrop with yellow stars and lime-green palm leaves.

Latin touches were everywhere. The rhythmic salsa-funk melodies of the SPAM All-Stars filtered through the cocktail area, where food stations offered dishes such as roasted pork and paella. Passed hors d'oeuvres included mini empanadas, vegetable spring rolls with sweet chili sauce, Floridian crabcakes with creole remoulade, and bites of Spanish potato omelette. Dancers from Rhythm City Productions spiced up the cocktail hour with saucy salsa and merengue combinations.

Sports memorabilia lined long rows of tables and enticed guests to participate in a live auction. Oversize red and yellow conga drums propped up large auction items such as a framed Miami Heat jersey worn by Shaquille O'Neal. Big spenders who wanted the real thing instead of just the uniform bid on two parties for 10 kids hosted by Wade—two bidders each bid $20,000 for the parties.

Two large animated renderings of Mourning by local artist LEBO flanked the entrance to the ballroom. Inside, tables were dressed in bright yellow linens with red napkins. Bright red conga drums atop a base covered with canvas and arranged against tropical foliage served as centerpieces. Pete Diaz Productions made sure the live auction and an award ceremony was loud and clear, and the sounds of Negroni's Trio resonated melodically throughout the night.

In total, the several days of fund-raising brought in more than $500,000, which will go to charities including Children's Home Society of Florida, Honey Shine Mentoring Program, and the Overtown Youth Center.

Vanessa Goyanes

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