Last month, it was the grownups’ turn to play at the 2015 Imagine Gala, a night of lavish food, a live and silent auction, dancing and a Celebrity Chef Cook-off that raised $100,000 to support the Imaginarium Science Center. The funds will be used for new exhibits, expanded programing, scholarships and long-term master planning.
About 200 people attended the event, which garnered an impressive 25-percent increase in funds over last year’s proceeds of $75,000—then a record-breaking amount. In its tenth year, the 2015 event has now raised the stakes for a new record next year.
The Celebrity Chef Cook-off pitted local culinary geniuses against each other, with Fabrice Deletrain and Ben Voisin of Fathoms Restaurant & Bar and Brian Roland of Chef Culinaire proving formidable competitors for champion Harold Balink of Cru. All three gourmet gladiators wowed the judges with their unique take on the mystery ingredient from the Fresh from Florida pantry, the Florida hogfish.
A live auction featuring chefs table dinners with each of the culinary crusaders, a luxurious week in Steamboat Springs, a full-service landscape design and installation package, and a dive of the USS Mohawk Memorial Reef with stars of the Animal Planet Series “Tanked” brought in $25,000 in proceeds. An exciting silent auction with scores of fabulous donated items netted $13,000. The generosity of ticket holders and sponsors exceeded fundraising goals and demonstrated a dedication to the Imaginarium as a major community asset.
Immediate plans for the allocation of funds includes the new saltwater aquarium to open later this year and a recently formed scholarship partnership with The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools for high school students seeking higher education and training in STEM related fields.
Jonathan Romine, President of the Imaginarium Board of Directors, said, “We are extremely grateful for the community’s continued support of the Imaginarium, especially our Title Sponsor, Lipman Produce. This is a community place where people of all ages come to expand their minds and with this generous support, the Imaginarium continues to play an important role in the cultural fabric of southwest Florida.”
The Imaginarium Board, event committee and staff are grateful to the many sponsors who helped make the event another record-breaking success, including Title Sponsor Lipman Produce and major sponsors Chico’s FAS, Inc., Enterprise, Bell Tower Shops, Henderson Franklin Starnes & Holt, P.A., EnSite, Inc. and CONRIC PR & Marketing | Publishing.
About the Imaginarium Science Center
The Imaginarium Science Center is a family-friendly science center and aquarium offering fun interactive exhibits and a 3-D theatre. The mission is to engage guests in the exploration of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) through hands-on exhibit experiences and educational programs that further the understanding of the natural and human-made world, foster an appreciation for Southwest Florida’s unique environment and natural waterways, and nurture intellectual curiosity, discovery, and innovation. For more information, visit www.i-sci.org.