The highlight of many a charity campaign in Sarasota inevitably ends up being a gala, a chance for supporters to dress to the nines and celebrate a chosen cause. Our readers were especially fond of the Orchid Ball, an event benefiting Marie Selby Botanical Gardens and hosted in this lush outdoor venue. But a close runner-up was Wine, Women and Shoes, which delivers proceeds for funding Forty Carrots Family Center programs. Going for the Gold, the annual fundraiser for the Sarasota YMCA, took a bronze-tinged second runner-up prize this year, while the third runner-up spot went to Paws on the Catwalk, a luncheon boosting the Humane Society of Sarasota County.

Jenn Stutler (on the Orchid Ball): Selby is like Sarasota’s little version of Central Park, a garden oasis in the middle of an urban center. It is a treasure for Sarasota. My favorite moment from the 2015 Orchid Ball was when the band started playing “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” and the wait staff from Michael’s on East all came out with silver trays and jewelry boxes. It was Valentine’s Day. They did a circular performance in the middle of the dance floor and then distributed the jewelry to the guests as a surprise by their husbands and partners who had pre-purchased them at June Simmons jewelry at an earlier event. The money that was raised from the jewelry sales also went to Selby. Minta Getzen (on WWS): Forty Carrots provides Good Beginnings to Last a Lifetime, making it possible for families at 25 non-profit partner agencies in Sarasota and Manatee counties to receive free access to parenting education, child and family therapy and early childhood education. I know my time and dollars are an outstanding investment in our community’s future. As the event coordinator for Wine, Women & Shoes, my favorite moment is when the amazing volunteer Solemen bring the guests’ swag bags to a room of ladies who have enjoyed a spectacular day with their best girlfriends. By then, we have a good idea that we have met our financial goals so Forty Carrots can help keep more children safe and strengthen families.