FORT MYERS, Fla. (Jan. 14, 2021) – The Guardian ad Litem Foundation, 20th Judicial Circuit, raised $66,800 at its inaugural Voices of Hope Gala, a virtual event that included passionate testimonials from volunteer child advocates and longtime supporters.

Proceeds will help the Guardian ad Litem Foundation recruit, train and support volunteer child advocates, as well as provide financial assistance to help meet a child’s basic and developmental needs. The Foundation’s court-certified volunteer child advocates serve as the voice for abused, neglected, and abandoned youth in Southwest Florida as they navigate the judicial, education, and child welfare systems.

The Guardian ad Litem Foundation’s supporters were encouraged to host watch parties in their homes and heard from volunteer child advocates, donors, and board members, as well as appeals from three celebrity guests: rapper and actor Ice-T, “The Most Interesting Man in the World” Jonathan Goldsmith and The Blind Side’s real-life mother Leigh Anne Tuohy. Virtual attendees also had opportunities to bid during a live auction and pledge donations during a lively Fund-A-Need appeal. The Foundation continued to process donations well after the Nov. 12 event, allowing the nonprofit to exceed its annual fundraising goals.

“It was truly inspiring to hear advocates speak during the gala about what compelled them to volunteer and how they’ve been able to positively impact the life of a child,” said Jessica Stanfield, the Foundation’s executive director. “There are so many children in the child welfare system that simply need to know that someone has their best interests at heart, and thanks to our supporters and sponsors, the Foundation will be able to continue supporting children across Southwest Florida.”

The Foundation presented its Helping Other People Excel Award, or HOPE Award, to Cynthia Shafer, a 26-year volunteer and founder of the Bedz for Kidz Program that has provided thousands of beds, linens, and stuffed animals for children across Southwest Florida.

Jennifer Siegal-Miller and Peter Knize served as co-chairs for the Voices of Hope Gala. WINK News Anchor Corey Lazar was emcee and Rick Gallo was the auctioneer.

Event sponsors included PNC Bank, Ronto Group, Elizabeth K. Galeana Charitable Foundation, Henderson Franklin Attorneys at Law, Guardian ad Litem Foundation Board of Directors, Collier County Bar Foundation, Kathy and Bruce Greenberg, Morgan & Morgan, The Naples Trust Company, Sanibel Captiva Community Bank, WINK News, and Opulent Lighting & Design. Burntwood Tavern and Hurricane Charley’s Raw Bar & Grill were the catering sponsors.

The Voices of Hope Gala initially was scheduled for March 2020, but was postponed just days before the event because of COVID-19 and later converted to a virtual event. The gala didn’t lose a single sponsor and no ticket holders asked for a refund.

“Canceling was never an option for us, just like giving up on the children we serve is never an option,” said Bruce Greenberg, the Foundation’s board president. “Through a pandemic, complicated cases, or changes in foster care, our volunteers and the Guardian ad Litem Foundation continue to show up for the children who need us the most. If there’s one thing I can say about those who spend their lives protecting our innocent children, we never give up.”

For more information about the Guardian ad Litem Foundation, please visit VoicesForKids.org or call 239-533-1435.