Catholic Foundation Gala Celebrates the Gift of Catholic Education

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Sold Out Event Raised Over $350,000 for Tuition Assistance

More than 600 individuals representing parishes, schools and local businesses gathered together at the Hilton Downtown Tampa on February 2 for the Catholic Foundation’s 15th Annual Gala in support of Catholic education and tuition assistance programs.

“It is our privilege to help hundreds of students afford a Catholic school education. To them, their families, and their schools, this is extremely important. By your presence here tonight, all of you share in that same privilege,” said Chris Schellman, President of the Board of Trustees of the Catholic Foundation.

One of the major highlights of the Gala was an essay read by 8th grader, Emily Vasti, who spoke about how her faith and her St. John Vianney Catholic School community helped her through a very difficult time, the sudden death of her mother. She won the essay contest, “What A Catholic School Education Means To Me,” sponsored by Saint Leo University and received a $10,000 scholarship to attend the high school of her choice, which she announced will be St. Petersburg Catholic High School.

Also, Saint Leo University presented Owen Hill of Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School with a full tuition scholarship valued at $100,000.

Bishop Gregory Parkes spoke to the large group about what a Catholic education means to our Church.

“Our Catholic schools present an evangelizing environment for all who are involved from administration and staff to families.  They are places in which our diocesan vision, Courageously Living the Gospel thrive. Through our schools, we can see our faith in action, and we can live the Gospel,” said Bishop Parkes

Another highlight of the evening was the keynote address by businessman and philanthropist, Richard Gonzmart, fourth-generation caretaker of the Columbia group, which includes the Historic Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City, Ulele and Goody Goody. He spoke about the impact Catholic education has had on his life and family.

The Catholic Foundation has been serving the people of God in the Diocese of St. Petersburg since its inception in 1997. Their goal is to work with dedicated parishioners, community leaders, and businesses to ensure the future prosperity of the Catholic Church by secure management of assets for charitable gift annuities, grants, endowments and gifts.

The Gala, made possible in part by Presenting Sponsor BayCare Health System, included:

  • Monsignor Robert Gibbons, pastor of St. Paul Parish in St. Petersburg as the master of ceremonies
  • Art showcase featuring original work from all primary Catholic schools, grades K through 8
  • Silver and Gold VIP reception for special sponsorship levels
  • Top notch dinner
  • Live auction
  • 50-50 raffle

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