An Affair Rio Style sambas into Vero to benefit Hibiscus Children’s Center

VERO BEACH — Brazilian Carnival made its way to The Moorings Club for An Affair Rio Style, this year’s Winter Gala theme to benefit the Hibiscus Children’s Center. 

Co-chairs Nadja Ricci and Raquel Tilton welcomed guests to into a Copacabana-styled evening, complete with a couple of greeters in eye-popping samba costumes. Black was most definitely the favored dress color choice this year, enhanced by sprinklings of the traditional peacock feathers used in Carnival costumes, both real and jeweled, on gowns and purses.  Guests mingled and perused a large selection of donated silent auction items during the cocktail hour, with many sipping on a drink called Caipirinha.

“It’s the Brazilian national drink made from cachaça, which is similar to rum,” explained the Brazilian born Heloise Halcomb of the drink, which tastes a bit like limeade with a kick.

Long-time supporter Stacey Barnett remembered back to the development of the Hibiscus Children’s Village on 12th Street in Vero Beach.

“Twelve of us went to Jensen Beach to tour the facility.  There were a large percentage of children from Indian River County in the Jensen facility,” explained Barnett.  “Not only were these children being taken from their homes, they were in a whole new area with new schools, new everything.”

“It really took off when Norm and Betty Jean Hensick donated the land and then Toby Hill came on board to build the Village.  It didn’t happen quickly, but what’s interesting to me is that from that small group, we now have galas with 300 people.”

As she took a quick peek at the dining room décor, last year’s co-chair Carole Casey enthused, “Isn’t it fabulous?   Everybody who didn’t come will feel like they missed something.”

Event designer Fé Domenech of The Event Firm International had beautifully decorated the dining room in soft shades of pink and green.  Enormous palm leaves and bright pink orchids spilled out of tall pillared vases, set atop chartreuse tablecloths adorned with appliqued flowers in lime green.

Dancers from Private Stock Productions entertained the diners, with one pair doing a dynamic samba in bright neon-green costumes.  A smiling Rick Halcomb said he gave the female dancer’s itty-bitty outfit “two thumbs up.”  Later on a trio of dancers led the crowd on a lively Brazilian conga through the dining room and back to the dance floor.

After a gourmet dinner of filet mignon and seared sea bass, County Commissioner Wesley Davis, turned auctioneer for the evening, presided over a list of must-have live auction items.

Rep. Gayle Harrell later spoke to guests on behalf of Hibiscus Children’s Center founder LaVaghn Tilton, who was unable to attend.  The two had been tennis partners when Tilton conceptualized the organization and told Harrell, “I have this idea; this vision.  It’s all about the kids.”

Harrell spoke briefly about the 25-year journey which has resulted in the creation of one of the most comprehensive children and family program providers in Florida.

“We thank you,” said Harrell to the sold-out room full of supporters.  “You are LaVaghn’s vision.”

Proceeds from the event benefit the programs and services of the Hibiscus Children’s Center including the Hibiscus Children’s Shelter, which provides a safe environment to children infant to age 12 who have been removed from their home because of abuse, neglect or abandonment, and the Hibiscus Children’s Village, which offers a safe haven for children up to age 17 where they can live in a family-like environment and interact with other children and teens. {igallery 319}

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