Chocolate Champagne & Chefs fete’s a ‘Big’ success

Supporters of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Indian River County packed the Quail Valley River Club last Monday evening at the ninth annual Chocolate Champagne & Chefs fundraiser, which this year honored Walmart Distribution Center #7038 for its philanthropic contributions.

“Teamwork makes the dream work,” said event chair Joanna Meyers, quoting author John Maxwell, and thanking the committee, BBBS staff, sponsors, auctioneer John Moore, and the deliciously sweet chefs. Commenting that they hoped to net more than $100,000 this year, she added, “From the bottom of our hearts, our team thanks you.”

To put a face to the mission and demonstrate its impact, BBBS CEO Judi Miller introduced Jennifer Davis, whose five children entered the program in 2007.

“When my children started the program they ranged from age 4 to 11; you can imagine what that’s like,” said Davis, sharing that as a single mother, she especially wanted her sons, then ages 7 and 8, to have positive male role models.

Her now-21-year-old daughter, who will graduate a year early from FSU with a double major, was mentored by a former Yale University professor. Her 18-year old son, studying electrical engineering at IRSC, was mentored by a man with a Ph.D. in science. Her middle child, a senior at VBHS, was matched with a man who is helping him to network for college and career opportunities. The mentor of a daughter developmentally delayed due to childbirth complications, has helped her blossom into a confident, straight-A high school freshman. And her soccer-playing youngest daughter is also a straight-A student thanks to her mentor.

“I just want to say thank you to everyone who supports this program. It’s made a huge difference in my children’s lives,” said Davis.

Miller presented Walmart representatives Joe Wallace and Steve Gilbert with a globe, signifying Walmart Foundation’s “commitment to operating globally and giving back locally.”

In addition to donating significant dollars, Miller noted that over the past decade Walmart employees have volunteered as mentors, at events and have served on the board. Each year its managers donate bicycles which are symbolically ‘auctioned’ at $1,000 apiece during the live auction; this year 20 children will have brand new bikes for Christmas.

“I joined this board by accident, and now Judi can’t get rid of me,” Wallace joked. “But through the years, hearing the stories like Jennifer’s and others and seeing what we do, we do make a difference. So I just want to say thank you to each one in this room for the difference you make.”

Before guests indulged in the decadently delicious, chocolaty works of art crafted by Chefs Chris Bireley, Osceola Bistro; Tim Blouin, Grand Harbor Club; Ashley Cupp, Quail Valley River Club; Adrienne Drew, Catering by Adrienne Drew; Scott Varricchio, Citrus Grillhouse; and Lori Young, Sweet Creations by LS Young, they dined on a sumptuous dinner created by Quail Valley Executive Chef Joe Faria.

Big Brothers Big Sisters serves more than 500 children in Indian River County in various programs, including one-to-one mentorships with children ages 4 through 18. For more information visit


Photos by: Denise Ritchie

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