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Make-A-Wish® Southern Florida VIP Kick-Off Party‏

Updated: Dec 6, 2020

Miami, FL (September 2016) – On Thursday, September 8, Make-A-Wish® Southern Florida and InterContinental® Miami celebrated the 22nd Annual InterContinental® Miami Make-A-Wish® Ball VIP kick-off party in anticipation of this season’s gala, La Nuit de l’Animal (Night of the Animal) taking place on Saturday, November 12, at the InterContinental® Miami.

Robert Hill, Gala Host and General Manager of InterContinental® Miami; Shareef Malnik, Gala Chairman and owner of The Forge Restaurant l Wine Bar; Stephanie Diaz, Wish Child and Norman Wedderburn, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish®Southern Florida-Photo Credit: Seth Brownick/World Red Eye.Com

"We put on a great event that is meant to be a lot of fun, because we want you to have fun, but at the end of the day we also want to raise money to make sure that Make-A-Wish Southern Florida can do what it needs to do to grant the wishes of every child with a life-threatening medical condition", said Robert Hill, Gala Host and General Manager of the InterContinental® Miami.

Welcoming guests to the event were, Robert Hill, Gala Host and General Manager of InterContinental® Miami; Shareef Malnik, Gala Chairman, Chairman’s Society Member, Chairman of the Board for Make-AWish® Southern Florida and owner of The Forge Restaurant l Wine Bar; and Norman Wedderburn, President and CEO of Make-A-Wish® Southern Florida – the trio affectionately known as the “Three Amigos.” Guests included Chairman’s Society Members Richard Polidori, Brett Rose & Jerry Gutierrez and Dennis Crowley, members of the Make-A-Wish Board of Directors including, Greg Baty, Sheila Cesarano, Amy Federman, Taylor Gang, Sherri Gutierrez, Scott Helms, Jill Johns, Drew Mandala, Jodi Siravo, Angie Valdes and Ameen Killidar. Other notable attendees included Jonathan & Missy Babicka, Michael Capponi, Peter Ancona, Alan Alvarez and Ozzie Torres, Esq.

With inspiration from Deco Productions, the InterContinental® Miami Food & Beverage Team transformed the hotel’s Bayfront Ballroom into an enchanting experience, complete with forest and wildwood elements, incandescent lighting and servers dressed in attire reminiscent of speakeasy bartenders, along with cocktail waitresses bearing intricate animal face paint to embody La Nuit de l’Animal. InterContinental® Miami Executive Chef Klaus Happel and Executive Sous Chef Jhonnatan Contreras delighted guests with extravagant food stations including, forest mushrooms and crêpes made of enoki and shiitake mushrooms with sake flambé; savory macaroons of smoked trout, sesame seed and marmalade; sushi stations and a decadent s’mores bar featuring passion fruit marshmallows, artisan chocolate barks and dried fruit. Partygoers also enjoyed an array of fine wines and classic cocktails throughout the evening.

To the surprise of guests, the crowd was treated to a performance and dance ensemble, offering a sneak peak of what is to come for this year’s Ball. Following the performance, the “Three Amigos” - Robert Hill, Shareef Malnik, and Norman Wedderburn took to the stage, taking turns addressing the crowd and thanking donors for their support of Make-A-Wish® Southern Florida and the InterContinental® Miami Make-A-Wish® Ball, which grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions. In addition, it was announced that the official after-party, the InterContinental® Miami Make-A-Wish Nightclub presented by E11EVEN Miami will be held immediately following the Ball at the InterContinental® Miami featuring DJ Jermaine Dupri and will include an elaborate runway fashion show presented by Neiman Marcus Bal Harbour. Tickets for the Nightclub are $100 in advance and $120 at the door, but for those already attending the Ball prior, there is no charge. There will be a complimentary open bar and cocktail attire is required.

InterContinental ®Miami hosts the annual VIP kick-off party in celebration of Make-A-Wish® donors and supporters. As the Ball Founder, 22-Year Partner and In-Kind Donor of the Ball, InterContinental ®Miami has contributed more than $9.7 million through in-kind donations to Make-A-Wish® Southern Florida. These donations have enabled the organization to raise more than $19.3 million resulting in nearly 4,000 wishes being granted to children with life-threatening medical conditions in our community.

Suzanne Diaz,Mother of Wish Child, Stephanie Diaz, Wish Child and Luis Diaz, Father of Wish Child - Photo Credit :Seth Brownick/World Red Eye.Com

However, the biggest celebration of all at the VIP kick-off party was Make-A-Wish® child Stephanie Diaz, who attended with parents Suzanne & Luis Diaz, whose touching story captivated the audience, moving many in the room to tears. When recounting her courageous journey, Stephanie thanked Make-A-Wish® for giving her the strength to fight her sickness, crediting her granted wish to go on a Mediterranean cruise with helping her to see first-hand that, “The world is bigger than one hospital bed.” Stephanie and her family were so deeply touched by their experience with Make-A-Wish®, taking time to thank donors and supporters for their generosity and unwavering support. Stephanie’s wish was sponsored by Water Tree Health, marking the 100th wish that they have sponsored.

“The impact of the InterContinental ®Miami Make-a-Wish® Ball for the audiences we serve can’t be overstated,” said Norm Wedderburn, Make-A-Wish Southern Florida President & CEO. “The Ball has underwritten the cost of thousands of ‘bucket-list’ experiences for South Florida families coping with a child’s life-threatening medical condition and, under the direction of Gala Chair Shareef Malnik and Gala Host Robert Hill, continues to deliver an experience for attendees that is unlike any other.”

ABOUT MAKE-A-WISH® SOUTHERN FLORIDA Since 1983, Make-A-Wish® Southern Florida has granted more than 10,000 wishes to children who have life- threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength, and joy. The nonprofit organization serves families in Palm Beach, St. Lucie, Martin, Broward, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Highlands, Indian River, Lee, Miami-Dade, Monroe, and Okeechobee counties and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It receives no federal or state funding and raises money to grant wishes through corporate sponsorships, special events, foundation grants, and individual contributions. The Southern Florida chapter grants a wish every 16 hours, every day of the year, at an average cost of $5,000. For more information, to make a donation, volunteer or refer a child, contact Make-A-Wish at (888) 773-WISH. ABOUT INTERCONTINENTAL®MIAMI Celebrating 30 years as an icon of the Downtown Miami skyline, the InterContinental® Miami is located at the crossroads of Miami's Business and Arts & Entertainment districts. A beacon for business and leisure travelers alike, the hotel rises 34 stories over the city with breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean, Biscayne Bay and the Port of Miami. The hotel features 641 luxury guest rooms, including 34 suites and two presidential suites designed by Venus William’s V Starr Interiors; 35 meeting rooms with over 101,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting and exhibition space, including a spectacular Grand Ballroom; multiple food and beverage outlets – Toro Toro, ¡Ole!, Bluewater, Table 40 and the hotel’s interactive digital arts lobby lounge; full-service fitness center and spa at mySpa Miami; and rooftop pool deck with gardens. The InterContinental Miami is a proud corporate citizen of the Miami-Dade community, invested through its annual InterContinental Miami Make-A-Wish Ball, and its corporate social responsibility program. For more information or reservations, call 305-577-1000 or visit


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