'Straight from the Heart' fundraiser a joyous reunion for former classmates

info@islandpacket.comFebruary 6, 2012 

Thanks to Children's Relief Fund volunteers for sharing the story behind its annual fundraiser.

"Straight from the Heart"

At first glance you might think you are in the wrong place for the annual fundraiser of a major island nonprofit organization. The air buzzes with youthful energy, there are hugs and exuberant welcomes from scores of men and women in their 20s and 30s (and upward), the fashions are glam and the atmosphere is electric.

But then "Straight from the Heart," the annual dinner/dance and auction for the Children's Relief Fund, always has marched to its own beat.

Now in its 16th year, the dance has become a joyous annual reunion for the former classmates of Frankie Fotia, son of Children's Relief Fund founder Rose Fotia. The classmates return to Hilton Head to support their friend, remember his brother Gregory and honor the hard work of the Fotia family on behalf of special-needs children. Other college kids have joined in the celebratory occasion as well, and the night has become a spirited event for a wide range of age groups.

The Children's Relief Fund provides financial aid, therapy and support, as well as special programs, for special-needs children and their families in the Lowcountry. The 21-year-old nonprofit group has no paid staff.

The dance has become a celebration of friendship, with whole families in attendance along with teachers, coaches, parents and classmates from Hilton Head Island High School and more.

"I don't know any other fundraiser that brings together so many age groups," Rose Fotia said. "I always make sure there's a great band because we all love to dance."

Brodie Scanlin has attended for years with many of his former high school soccer teammates.

"We come back every year because we all knew Gregory (who died at age 11 in 2000). It's our way of supporting our friend and a great cause," said Scanlin, now a construction manager who lives in Charlotte.

Classmate Eric Cerrati, a first-year surgical resident at New York University, said, "I try not to miss the Children's Relief Fund party. This is an organization that I will always support."

Frankie Fotia and Brodie Scanlin now come to the dance with their wives. Ceramics teacher Tim Holsinger and former soccer coach Mike Quigley are regulars, as are dozens of businessmen, community leaders, sponsors and longtime friends who have raised their children on Hilton Head. Andrea Antunes McGilton is a new bride this year and her mother, Alice, has been the Children's Relief Fund's official photographer for years.

"The Children's Relief Fund was started 21 years ago from a personal journey to help my special-needs child," Rose Fotia said. "Now, it warms my heart to see so many kids I have known since childhood return to share our love and create such a special evening."

"Straight from the Heart" will be at 6:30 p.m Saturday at the Crowne Plaza Resort in Shipyard Plantation. Tickets are $125 and include dinner, dancing to the band Intensity, silent and live auctions. For information or tickets, call Rose Fotia at 843-681-7668 or 832-342-5267.

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