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Sheryl Vieira shares thoughts on the community, good deeds and important things, big AND small.

The Power Behind the Suncoast Charities for Children

Through ongoing trials and tribulations regarding proper event venues, attempting to keep sponsors satisfied as well as the guests at the events, this strong-willed, highly experienced woman will never give up. True to her passion, Lucy V. Nicandri, the Executive Director of Suncoast Charities for Children, believes that adversities and challenges only make a person stronger. She refuses to ever lose sight of the fact that her work impacts the lives of over 8,000 people with very special needs who are faced with much more than Lucy will ever experience.

Lucy wasn’t always in the non-profit arena. When she originally moved to Florida in 1982, she worked in the banking industry. During that time, she was involved with organizing fundraising events, chaired many special events in the community, and also chaired the bank’s United Way Campaign for several years. After going through multiple bank mergers in the early 90s, she was eager to do something different. So when the United Way of Sarasota County had an opening for a major gifts officer, she made the move. Lucy would work there for more than a decade, holding the positions of Major Gifts Officer, Corporate Campaign Manager, and Vice President of Marketing and Events. She went to work at The Florida Center for Early Childhood before becoming Executive Director at Suncoast Charities for Children in 2009.

All through her young life and during her career, she would occasionally hear people say “you will never succeed at this” or why are you wasting your time?” Hearing those words only motivated her more to persevere, stay the course and achieve her goals. She never lets negative comments from a few keep her from achieving her goals and succeeding for the good of many. She reflects on the fact that her father had to work three jobs to provide for his family, so she knows she can handle any negativity she faces.

Her parents instilled in her at a very young age to be sincere and honest, stand up for what she believes in, and that hard work truly does pay off. And then she met Suncoast Charities board member Ron Foxworthy. In 1988, Lucy became involved as a volunteer with the Grand Prix Festival and to this day, she has watched Ron walk into a meeting surrounding a challenging situation and “agree to disagree” with the utmost class. She considers him a wonderful friend, a serious mentor, and has the utmost respect for him and what he has done for this community. Lucy has learned so much from Ron and is thankful for the incredibly positive impact he has had on her life and career.

Another mentor and friend she considers lucky to have on her board is Julie Brown. Julie’s late husband, Kevin Brown, was a supportive advocate and taught her how to run the Grand Prix Race as festival director. Even after his death, Julie has been there to show support, especially when the going gets tough. Lucy’s toughest challenge today is making sure the organization’s festivals and events appeal to millennials and hopes she can also somehow encourage them to be future philanthropists.

Lucy was conducting a committee meeting for the upcoming Suncoast Charities Festival and all the events, which lead up to the big day of racing. She shared with me that her group pulls the necessary permits and paperwork with the City of Sarasota each year to produce both the Fourth of July Bayfront Fireworks and the New Year’s Eve Bayfront Fireworks. The Suncoast Charities for Children in partnership with Marina Jack raises sponsorship dollars to cover the costs of both firework displays, which are free to the public. This began nine years ago with the July 4th Bayfront Fireworks, when the City could no longer produce the event and it was in jeopardy.

Lucy is a firecracker. What would we do without her at the helm? She’s such a powerhouse. Her work ethic, professionalism and attitude exemplify her personal motto, “An effort made for the happiness of others lifts us above ourselves.”


The Fourth of July, our nation’s Independence Day, has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1941, but the tradition of Independence Day celebrations goes back to the 18th century and the American Revolution (1775-83). In June 1776, representatives of the 13 colonies then fighting in the revolutionary struggle weighted a resolution that would declare their independence from Great Britain. On July 2nd, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence, and two days later its delegates adopted the Declaration of Independence, a historic document drafted by Thomas Jefferson. From 1776 until present day, July 4th has been celebrated as the birth of American independence, with typical festivities ranging from fireworks, parades, family gatherings and barbecues. Happy Birthday America!

Gallant Great Gatsby

Maria Brady (Choreographed Events) and Beth Bronson-Kampothecras (So Staged Event Design + Rentals) orchestrated a black-tie fundraiser, which was by far the best event I have ever been to. The details astounded and delighted the guests; women wore bejeweled gowns and “roaring” twenties-inspired accessories. Dr. Gary and Beth Kompothecras and their son Alex hosted the event at their magnificent estate home on Siesta Key to help raise funds for autism. Beth and Alex selected the theme and had fun planning this fabulous experience for their lucky guests.

As we arrived, the valet opened our doors and sweet sounds of a jazzy saxophonist playing busker style music filled our vehicle. We exited and were greeted with Bellinis in champagne coupes. Parked at the entrance was a pristine 1993 Rolls Royce Silver Phantom II and old-fashioned paparazzi wearing long rain coasts captured our photographs using flashbulb cameras as we walked the red carpet attached at the end to a female model. A live red carpet! Amazing. She extended her arm guiding us up the winding rising entry to this grand estate. Two more models wearing gold lame evening gowns and tall crystal chandelier headpieces greeted us at the main entrance. Yes, the tone had been carefully set. Once inside, the 1920’s décor simply took our breath away. Exquisite vintage furniture was strategically placed by Maria Brady of Choreographed Events and So Staged, which also built a larger-than-life champagne tower.

The lavish menu included favorites from the 1920s such as Classic Deviled Eggs, Blinis with Sour Cream & Black Caviar, Baked Oysters Rockefeller, Whole Poached Salmon, and enormous antipasto and dessert stations. Even the catering crew was in character, donning 20s-style bowties, suspenders, and arm garters! As guests grazed the decadent array of food, we were joined by a living female statue, painted in metallic gold and carrying a large white globe as sliced lamb was served.

Cigarette girls properly dressed in the era’s attire handed out candy cigarettes and chocolate cigars. The pianist played old Ragtime music and later, as the champagne flowed, the music changed over to a DJ who continued the ragtime theme and then went onto everything today. The florals, arranged by So Staged, were all-white Phalaenopsis orchids (very Gatsby-like!). Cameras were flashing, as were the smiles. And as a one last big surprise to push this event over-the-top, Maria Brady crafted and coordinated a metallic foil confetti drop from the third floor! We were expecting Leonardo DiCaprio, but even without him, it was a Great Gatsby evening!

Celebrating Our Okeanós

Ever hear of World Oceans Day? I had a chance to celebrate this day by helping deliver kayaks to Mote Marine Laboratory on Summerland Key, which will be used this summer by many students to explore and learn about our oceans. World Oceans Day is an annual celebration held in early June to facilitate a better understanding of the Earth’s oceans. The Ocean Project has promoted and coordinated events for the day since 2002.

The kids that attend Mote’s summer camps in the Keys experience marine conservation by snorkeling at Looe Key Reef, exploring tide pools at Bahia Honda State Park, and enjoying kayaking excursions, which get campers out on and in the waters to make observations, to see and learn about local organisms while gaining an appreciation for their protection for future generations. Students also learn about the transplanting of fragments of corals back out on local reefs. During the camps, Mote’s education department is translating Mote’s research for campers to better understand and help our seas.

It’s a week of adventure, while learning ocean conservation along the way. Hopefully, some are inspired enough to want to become future scientists and study the oceans themselves one day!

By the way, Mote’s recently renovated building, called IC2R3, is near completion and looks stunning! Renovations finished just in time for the start of kids’ summer camps. The construction, outfitting, and scientific infrastructure values about $7 million total. All support to date has come from philanthropic giving.

Green and Growing

Loveland Village celebrated its 55th anniversary with supporters, including donors, program participants, and mission partners at the 2nd Annual Loveland Gala: Emerald Nights. The purpose of the event was “Celebrating the past, and ensuring the future.” The event raised almost $40,000 toward building Loveland’s endowment fund.

The Gala committee was co-chaired by Anna Foster and Nikki Betz, and committee members included Lourdes Fuller, Ashley Leon, Emma Kate Scovill, and Rafael Robles. Mattison’s catered dinner, and guests enjoyed a themed cocktail called “Ruby Slippers,” as well as entertainment by the barbershop quartet Afternoon Delight (featuring Board Member Dr. Jim Woods). Classic Creations in Diamond & Gold sponsored an emerald champagne chance, the winner of which was Mrs. Valerie Button, who won a beautiful emerald and diamond pendant.

Loveland’s Board Chair, Debbie LaPinska, thanked guests and introduced Daniela Koci, immediate past President/CEO, who reflected on the past 55 years of growth for the organization, and shared an inspiring message of opportunities and needs for the next 55 years and beyond.

The highlight of the evening was Ms. Sharon Wirth, a Loveland student and resident, whose independence has grown by taking advantage of the countless opportunities and supportive services through Loveland Village since 1998. Ms. Wirth shared with guests her history prior to coming to Loveland, her participation in Employ Abilities, the path her career has taken, and her happiness with the apartment she shares with her friend, Stephanie. They were the first residents to sign their lease in 2016.

It was a beautiful night. The Lamoureux Clubhouse was uplifted with a sea of green and gold accents, garnering many ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from the guests. The light Wizard of Oz theme had many guests proclaiming that there truly is no place like Loveland Village.

Loveland Village is a nonprofit that provides educational, vocational and residential programs for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The nonprofit is gearing up to launch the Hearty Kitchen Academy, which will offer on-the-job food service training, allowing the possibility for graduates to transfer to employment at local restaurants, hotels, assisted living facilities, schools and many other businesses. As the academy grows, Loveland Village is also interested in developing a social enterprise that could employ graduates to serve the community. Loveland Village is in the middle of their search for their next “Wizard of Oz” and will continue to grow. There’s no place like home at Loveland Village!

From Lucy Nicandri never taking “no” as an answer to help others no matter the challenges, to the Kampothecras Family raising funds for autism in such a unique way, to Mote educators teaching kids about our oceans, not just during summer camps, but all year long, to celebrating our freedom with our family and friends, to providing a loving place for the residents at Loveland Village, we should realize that the needs of others are many and how lucky we are to have such kind and caring people in our community. Sounds like a lot of love to me!

Shared Thoughts on RealTALK…

Our RealTALK article is in its seventh month and we wanted to take this opportunity to share some of your thoughts and comments on the column…

“Sheryl, you make these events come to life and are really good about acknowledging those that worked so hard to make them successful, but especially recognize the beneficiaries of these efforts. Thank you for ALL you do!” – Dr. Jim Woods
“Your writing is stellar.” – Kim Livengood, Eclipse Agency
“Great article in the SCENE magazine!” – Kimberlie A. Buchanan, CPA, CFE, Shinn & Co.

If YOU care to share your thoughts, please write me at

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