Three Local Women Continue to Make Childrens' Wishes Come True With Cooking For Wishes Event

The Giving Coast


Sarasota trio: Terri Klauber, Renee Phinney and Kara Saunders band together again as co-chairs of an anticipatory fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation - Southern Florida, Suncoast Regional chapter. Celebrating its 10th year, “Cooking for Wishes” has generated nearly $600,000 for the nonprofit in the last two years—enough to grant 75 life-changing wishes for critically-ill children on the Suncoast. Always hosted at Michael’s on East, Cooking for Wishes invites guests to a fundraising lunch, but not just to sit down and be served. This interactive luncheon gets guests up out of their seats to learn how to prepare a four-course meal for their table. The luncheon is led under the direction of Executive Chef Jamil Piñeda of Michael’s on East, who created a special menu themed around the circus. Centered around a fun, festive theme each year, this year’s “Circus Spectacular” partnered with The Circus Arts Conservatory for an already sold-out event. 

With ticket sales and live auction proceeds underwriting the cost of granting life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses, guests attending Cooking for Wishes on February 20, can expect a visit from the Peacocks, a local family willing to share their story to the public. The Peacocks recently returned from a Disney cruise—a wish which was granted to their daughter Kinsley, a six-year-old pediatric cancer survivor. Upon having to have an eye removed to become cancer-free, Kinsley is now a nonprofit founder herself, selling cookies out of her cookie cart to raise money for fellow kids with cancer. She will be speaking at the luncheon about her experience with Make-A-Wish Southern Florida. 

But Kinsley’s trip to Disney is just one of the 12,000 life-changing wishes, since 1983, that Make-A-Wish Southern Florida has granted—at no cost or obligation to the families. “We really try and bring people in the room that care about children, that want to make a real difference in their lives," says Saunders. “We want the community to know there are many children with serious medical conditions and illnesses that need our help."  As the self-proclaimed “OG,” Klauber has been around since the very start of the chapter’s initiation. “I fell in love with the organization; it’s very close to my heart,” she says. “As a mother myself, and huge advocate for children, I just can’t imagine what a family goes through with a life-threatening illness and a wish that may not come true.”

Luckily, Phinney notes this luncheon has gained significant traction and momentum over the years. “It’s incredible when families are willing to spread awareness themselves by highlighting the impact," she says. “Their stories and memories keep the perpetual emotion going to help others stay positive, strong and happy.” The other women agree. “These wish experiences are more than nice,” Klauber says, “They’re necessary in supporting the health and well-being of families at a critical time in their lives.” 

The Southern Florida chapter’s territory includes 22 counties/four regions: the Suncoast (Sarasota, Manatee and surrounding counties), Tampa Bay, southeast and southwest Florida. It also includes the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Pictured from left to right: Renee Phinney, Terri Klauber and Kara Saunders.

Learn more about Make-A-Wish Southern Florida, 3430 Magic Oak Lane, Sarasota, 941-378-9474,

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