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2016 Tropical Nights Raises Over $400,000 for Autism Awareness

By UM News

2016 Tropical Nights Raises Over $400,000 for Autism Awareness

By UM News
The University of Miami – Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism & Related Disabilities (UM-NSU CARD) celebrated its 14th annual Tropical Nights on Saturday, May 7, at the InterContinental Miami. The event raised over $400,000 for South Florida autism services and programs.

More than 500 guests joined the event co-chairs Blake Sando from Cole, Scott & Kissane, P.A. and his wife Jennifer Sando, to celebrate CARD’s excellence in serving the South Florida autism community. This year Tropical Nights honored two prominent CARD parents, Mona Nasser and Tom Whitehurst. Ms. Nasser received the Cruz-Whitehurst Advocacy Award, and Mr. Whitehurst received the CARD Community Leadership Award. This year’s featured artist was Rachel Olin Levy, whose piece “Calla Lilies” (30” x 22” Gouache and watercolor) sold in the live auction. 

"Almost from the very beginning of CARD, these two amazing parents and advocates have believed in our mission and have supported us in fulfilling our promise. They gently guided us in new directions that needed to be explored and inspired us to be better than we ever imagined we could be. Both are now actively forging new paths in employment and housing for adults with autism who share the same lifelong needs as their own adult children," said Dr. Michael Alessandri, executive director of UM-NSU CARD and psychology professor at the UM College of Arts and Sciences.

Housed in the UM College of Arts and Sciences Department of Psychology, UM-NSU CARD is a state-funded resource and support program dedicated to improving the lives of individuals with autism and related disabilities including deaf-blindness and pervasive developmental disorders. 

This year’s event highlighted the journeys of the families of our honorees and others like them; their efforts to create innovative programming for adults with autism with significant needs and the role CARD has played in supporting them on this journey. Guests enjoyed an evening that included a cocktail reception followed by a night of fine dining, a live and silent auction, and dancing to the sounds from DJ1Tre. Proceeds from the event directly benefit the lifelong services and programs of CARD, which are provided to local families at no direct cost to them. 

In addition to this year’s focus, the event celebrated the talents of Alex Perez, a professional bass guitarist with autism who sold his CD with 50 percent of the proceeds benefiting CARD, as well as Our Pride Academy, Work for America, and Chocolate Spectrum who help employ adults with disabilities and provided candles, scrubs, and chocolates in guests' goody bags.

Faces in the crowd included: Robert Cambó and Patricia Menéndez-Cambó, Tom and Marie-Ilene Whitehurst, Professor and Chairman of the UM College of Arts and Sciences Department of Psychology Dr. Phil McCabe and his wife Sylvia McCabe, Dean of the UM College of Arts and Sciences Leonidas Bachas, Miami-Dade School Board Member Raquel Regalado, State Senator René García, UM School of Business Administration Dean Eugene Anderson, Coral Gables Commissioner Pat Keon, and many more.

Tropical Nights was sponsored by Greenberg Traurig, Cole, Scott & Kissane, P.A., Bilzin Sumberg, LLP, Lindamood Bell Learning Processes, Hogan Lovells, Coral Gables Bar Association, Paul J. DiMare Foundation, Univision Farmacia, Whitehurst Advisory Group of Raymond James, Publix Super Markets Charities, Bacardi USA, Padron Cigars, Mercedes Benz of Coral Gables, and many more. Media sponsors included Brickell Magazine/Key Biscayne Magazine and The Florida Villager.


May 11, 2016