Best Buddies Southwest Florida is proud to announce it surpassed the inaugural Champion of the Year Gala fundraising goal by 63%, raising a total of $79,000.  As the top fundraiser, Ken Coker of Cross Country Mortgage was named the 2019 Champion of the Year for the local organization.  The announcement was made at the gala held on Nov. 15 at the Forest Country Club in Fort Myers, which also featured silent and live auctions, dinner and dancing.


Prior to the event, 11  Southwest Florida ‘champions’ raised funds and awareness for Best Buddies Southwest Florida, and generated countless opportunities for friendships, jobs, and leadership development for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.


“We are so proud of Ken and all of our champions, who worked diligently to help us achieve our goal for the inaugural Champion of the Year event.  Their collective efforts will make a tremendous impact on the lives of those with intellectual and developmental abilities,” stated Melanie Musick, Area Director, Best Buddies Southwest Florida.  “The Southwest Florida community has embraced our mission wholeheartedly, and we so appreciative to continue receiving support from community leaders, business owners and residents,” she added.


The 2019 Southwest Florida participating champions also included: Andy Minoie, Starbucks at Miromar Outlets; Dale Earp, Earp Enterprises; Derek Newborn, Derek Newborn Fitness; Susan Christiano, Engel & Volkers, Ft. Myers Downtown; Amy Gaziano, mother of Gianna, 2018 Best Buddies Friendship Ball Queen; Steve Bray, Titan Restoration Construction; Jenna Maringione, FGCU Chapter President; David Oliver, Talking Bear Consulting; Elizabeth Salazar, Lehigh Senior High Chapter Vice President and Tim Dupre, Conditioned Air.  Event sponsors included: FPL Home, Seminole Casino and Hotel, Modern Woodmen Fraternal Financial, Downtown House of Pizza, Zak’s Jewelry and Vein Specialists, Dr. Joseph Magnant.


Best Buddies International is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated

employment, leadership development, and inclusive living for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

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