Local chefs joined forces with volunteers and philanthropists to whip up funds to support research into the causes and prevention of birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality at the March of Dimes Signature Chefs Auction last Monday at the Quail Valley River Club.
“We really don’t understand yet what causes premature births and March of Dimes does so much to try and answer that question,” said event chair David Bankston.
Guests wandered about the club while perusing tables of silent-auction items and grazing on a mouthwatering array of small-dish creations by talented chefs. Osceola Bistro Chef Chris Bireley served as chef chair, coordinating the efforts of chefs Tibor Andrejszky, Citron Bistro; Chuck Arnold, Fire and Wine; Stéphane Becht, Bistro Fourchette; Armando Galeas, The Wave at Costa d’Este; Eric Grutka, Ian’s Tropical Grill; Leanne Kelleher, The Tides; Chet Perrotti, Chelsea’s on Cardinal; Bob Rose, Amalfi Grille; and Scott Varricchio, Citrus Grillhouse.
Later in the evening, attorney John Moore presided over the live auction and this year’s Mission Families, Wheatie and Bob Gibb and Stevie and Robert “Mike” McCarter, shared their heartfelt stories.
Wheatie Gibb said that on Nov. 5, 1986, she was unaware of the life-threatening pregnancy disorder, pre-eclampsia toxemia, which begins after 20 weeks. But their golden retriever Chamois instinctively sensed something was wrong and woke her in the wee hours of the morning. An uncharacteristic headache triggered a visit to the doctor and a routine urine test proved anything but. Immediately admitted to the hospital, she was told the baby would be taken out the next day to, hopefully, save both their lives.
“All I kept thinking was, babies are supposed to be born at 40 weeks, not 26 weeks,” said Gibb. Two days later, seeing their healthy but tiny 2-pound, 11-ounce daughter for the first time, Gibb said “she was laying in an open cradle of cotton that looked like a baby’s scale; looking like an alien, albeit a beautiful alien.”
They couldn’t yet touch her, but Gibb remembered, “When her Dad would come in to talk with her, her monitors would go nuts at the sound of his voice.”
Mary McReynolds “Rennie” Gibb was welcomed into their home on Christmas Eve, weighing all of 4 pounds, and today their tall, lovely daughter is a marketing consultant living in Charlottesville, Va.
“We were awfully fortunate to have the positive outcome that so many others don’t experience,” said Gibb.
Sharing ‘the other side of the coin,’ Stevie McCarter told the tender story of their twin daughters Elly and Grace, born at 28 weeks, within a day of Rennie. Sadly, Grace did not survive but Elly was, and continues to be, a fighter. Elly was born with many complex medical conditions, requiring numerous surgeries and the family grew to accept that little Elly would be permanently blind, have cerebral palsy, would never be able to speak, walk or be independent, would have limited cognitive abilities and a seizure condition.
But, McCarter said, she, Mike and older daughters Stephanie and Parker consider themselves truly blessed to have been given Elly.
“She has taught everyone that she can be happy in life with very little. Elly has opened our eyes into a world we knew nothing about, but she has taught us about compassion, patience, love and strength. As I said, we are blessed. We are very lucky people,” said McCarter.
“I was so flattered and delighted when the March of Dimes asked me to tell our story. Any help they give to parents who suddenly find themselves in our shoes is wonderful, priceless help. As we sit here enjoying the evening, Mike and I are comforted by the thought that many dedicated doctors affiliated with the March of Dimes are working tirelessly to save and help the many Ellys and Graces in the world.”
Photos by: Denise Ritchie