Dance at heart of fund's efforts

There will be no shortage of love this Valentine's Day weekend. Rose Fotia hopes you'll share some of those warm fuzzy feelings with The Children's Relief Fund.

The 15th annual Straight from the Heart Valentine Dinner Dance and Auction will be at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Crowne Plaza Resort in Shipyard Plantation on Hilton Head Island.

The nonprofit organization has much to celebrate, including its 20th anniversary. When Rose and Frank Fotia of Hilton Head Island started the small organization in 1991, local programs for special needs children and their families were scarce. The Children's Relief Fund now distributes more than $200,000 a year for a variety of activities, summer camps and programs.

"When I started this organization, there wasn't anything here for kids with disabilities," Rose Fotia said. "Now there are so many opportunities. It's grown remarkably."

The Children's Relief Fund contributes to several regular programs, including the Special Olympics, Heroes on Horseback, Lowcountry Autism Foundation and Fish with Friends.

Most of the money used to fund that programming is raised at Straight from the Heart. Last year the event brought a profit of $160,000. Rose hopes to achieve a similar result this year.

She promises a spectacular evening for those attending. The black tie-optional gala includes hors d'oeuvres, dinner with complimentary wine, live entertainment by the Orangeburg band Intensity, and silent and live auctions. Auction items include trips to Italy and Belize, and an opportunity to play in a celebrity golf tournament in Maui, Hawaii.

The evening provides fun for couples celebrating Valentine's Day, and also recognizes the efforts of The Children Relief Fund's 25 volunteers. Most importantly, Rose said, the event helps the children supported by the organization.

"These children are the epitome of unconditional love. What better time to celebrate our love for them?"