Best Buddies’ Gala: Auctions and a hiphop superstar just the beginning (includes video story)

Best Buddies 24th annual gala, a lavish affair on Nov. 18 at the Ice Palace Studios in downtown Miami, raised $3 million to support the organization’s  mission of helping people with intellectual developmental disabilities. 

Ice Palace Studios transported its guests to a Middle Eastern escape. Gold and red drapes lined the walls as music flowed from room to room. Sports memorabilia, artwork and once-in-a-lifetime trips to Qatar were auctioned to fashionably dressed attendees.

The cocktail hour and silent auction set the scene for the night with a live dancing performance. A gourmet dinner followed. Elegant centerpieces of red roses and tea light candles adorned every table. 

The night ended with a special performance by DJ Khaled. Guests were invited on stage and shared the memorable night alongside the star. 

Anthony Kennedy Shriver, CEO and founder of Best Buddies International, spent the night talking with guests and hosted part of the auction.

“I’m glad to be back,” said Shriver. “Haven’t had the gala for two years, but I’m super excited. We’re making tons of money all for a great cause. Super grateful to be here, be alive and to be hosting the Gala again.” 

Among other notable guests: supermodel, actress and Best Buddies’ Global Ambassador Cindy Crawford, and four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome. The live auction started off with David Yarrow’s photograph of Crawford recreating her iconic Pepsi commercial from 1992. It  sold for $90,000.

Photograph of Cindy Crawfors sold for $90,000. (Photo by Janetssy Lugo / SFMN)

This year, the gala incorporated a Champion of the Year award, in which individuals were recognized for fund-raising during a 10-week campaign. There were nine candidates: Michelle Klingmen, first place winner, Katherine Davis second place winner, MIchael Mio third place winner, Felipe Basulto, Chris Gaba, James Ferraro Jr.,  Adam Petrillo, Ralph Winter, and Omar Yemini. 

Mio, vice president at Imperial Freight Brokers, raised $17,000 in his 10-week campaign. 

“The best thing about what I do is giving back and knowing that I support others and helping them grow in whatever it is that they want to do,” said Mio. “So the feeling is indescribable… indescribable.”

Best Buddies International was founded by Shriver in 1989 and has been helping people with intellectual developmental disabilities ever since. The organization adheres to four mission pillars: one-to-one friendships, integrated employment, leadership development and inclusive living. 

Best Buddies International continues to impact those with and without intellectual developmental disabilities. Shania Gerald, a greeter at the event and long-time member, can attest to the positive influence of  Best Buddies.

“So I’ve been here since I was in middle school  and it impacts so much that we get to pair up with Buddies, we get to do the Best Buddies walk,” said Gerald. “It’s so amazing that you get to see different people.”

Those interested in supporting the Best Buddies International community can get involved by filling out a short form. Best Buddies has more events planned in the next few  months and welcomes new participants.

Janetssy Lugo is a student at Florida International University majoring in digital journalism. She loves reading, baking and listening to Bad Bunny. Working at a radio station is one of her goals as well as traveling the world.

Maria Lozada is a junior at Florida International University majoring in Digital Broadcast. She has a passion for writing and editing videos. She looks forward to graduating and pursuing a career in the media industry.