Naples Winter Wine Festival: Meet the kids day

Reporter: Lindsey Sablan Writer: Matthew Seaver
Published: Updated:

There is a renewed focus on children’s mental health because of the pandemic and Hurricane Ian.

This year, the foundation behind the Naples Winter Wine Festival handed out $1 million to food banks and hospitals to ensure the need for food and care was there for our kids. They can pull out money like that because of the wine festival.

It is considered the Superbowl of charity events. There is fantastic food and incredible wine, but if you talk to anyone generous enough to pay for a ticket for the festival, they will tell you this weekend is all about what happened on Friday.

Booth by booth, brief interactions lead to lifetime commitments as donors meet the kids benefiting from their donations.

“I met Nathan with Able Academy, and he was telling me all about their after-school programming for children and adults with developmental disabilities,” said Amy West.

Meet the kids day is West’s favorite day of the Naples Winter Wine Festival. It comes 24 hours before the big auction that raises millions of dollars, and the whole point is for donors to see where their money goes.

OJ Buigas and his wife have been a part of the Naples Winter Wine Festival for 10 years and are hooked to this mission.

“Kids that have come through the programs, the many programs here, and actually get to go to college and then graduated get a job, there’s nothing more rewarding,” Buigas said.

That rewarding feeling discovered led to a family affair. “So I have my daughter, my son-in-law,” said Buigas.

Buigas’ daughter and son-in-law fly from Virginia yearly to participate in this festival because they believe in it.

“Anyone who walks in and meets any of these children can see the effect it has on their lives and their parents and the families they can touch,” said Mandy Bokan.

“You asked about why this one. 100% of the profits are fed back into the community,” Andrew Bokan said.

Every year there’s a different theme, and this year’s theme is ‘In Perfect Harmony,’ so when the other attendees went to all the various booths, they received guitar picks that were put on a chain so they could take them home and remember all the nonprofits they are donating to.

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