Winter Wine Festival 2020 brings in $20 million for SWFL kids in need

Reporter: Therese O'Shea
Published: Updated:

$200 million was the goal of the Naples Winter Wine Festival, and after this past Saturday’s event, they were able to exceed the amount they were hoping to raise, by bringing in a record $20 million for this year’s event.

This brings the total raised in the history of the event to $210 million.

WINK News was at the event to see all the action, along with a big surprise, as donations rolled in at the main event.

Over the last 20 years, the Naples Winter Wine Festival has brought in more than $191 million to change the lives of local children.

“That averages out to 13, 14, 15 million a year, which is unheard of. So the way we raise money in Collier County is very special,” said Maria Jimenez-Lara, CEO of Naples Children and Education Foundation.

And the money raised is unlike anything the event’s founders could have fathomed 20 years ago.

“There were 11 of us that had a meeting and we drank a little wine and came up with an idea that we wanted to throw a world-class wine festival,” said lifetime trustees Brian and Denise Cobb.

The impact made by the money raised extends to over 55,000 at-risk children in Southwest Florida, now thriving thanks to the generosity of donors.

The Winter Wine Festival offers once-in-a-lifetime experiences for guests. Something like customizing your own Bentley, and then getting to tour the factory where it’s made in London, is an opportunity up for bidding.

Those purchases and donations bring in tens to hundreds of millions of dollars to help benefit children right here in Southwest Florida.

When asked what number he expected to bring in at the event, Jeff Puhlman of Bentley Motors said he expects, “several zeros larger than the other two cars.”

And to get the energy and bidding as high as possible, trustees and donors got the surprise of a lifetime. Grammy award-winning band, Kool and the Gang kicked off the celebration ahead of the live auction.

“It’s a great thing to be part of this festival, said Robert “Kool” Bell of Kool and The Gang. “I hope they raise a lot of money for the children, because the children are our future.”

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