Hearts of Gold Raises a Record-Shattering $275,000 for the Coalition


ORLANDO, Fla. – May 5, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida’s Hearts of Gold concert presented by Reed Nissan raised over $275,000 on Saturday, May 2, shattering all fundraising records in the event’s 22-year history. More than 650 of Central Florida’s top business and philanthropic leaders gathered at Hard Rock Live to eat, drink, and celebrate the healing power of music in support of the homeless men, women, and children in our community.

The rock venue was transformed, courtesy of event sponsor Disney, into an elegant, sophisticated setting indicative of the entertainment to come. Matt Shenk, local singer-songwriter and friend of the Coalition, provided pre-concert entertainment as attendees noshed, chatted, and put their smartphones to work bidding on unique items and experiences in the silent auction.

Fernando Varela, an immensely gifted tenor and finalist on America’s Got Talent, served as the evening’s host between belting out both classic and contemporary hits. Early in the evening, he announced that the fundraising goal of $220,000 had already been surpassed, and then challenged attendees to set a new bar – a quarter of a million dollars.

Backed by the Orlando Pops Orchestra, Varela was joined by many of his talented friends: fellow tenor and America’s Got Talent contestant Branden James, local powerhouse vocalist Sisaundra Lewis, pianist superstar William Joseph, and the booming baritone Craig Irvin. Each performer showcased their unique talents with everything from Varela’s spot-on rendition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” to Irvin’s swoon-worthy performance of the classic opera song“Toreador.” Joseph rocked the house with Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” on piano; Lewis got everyone on their feet for Chaka Kahn’s “I’m Every Woman”; and William Joseph lent his smooth voice to Sammy Davis’ classic “What Kind of Fool Am I?”

President/CEO Brent A. Trotter took the stage as the Orlando Pops played, promising not to sing but to thank those who made the event possible. Reed Nissan was at the top of the list, followed by Corporate Sponsors Bright House Networks, Walt Disney World, 4 Rivers Smokehouse, Hilton Grand Vacations, PNC Bank, Starwood Vacation Ownership, SunTrust Foundation, Tupperware Brands, and TWS Marketing Group, along with 11 supporting sponsors, 15 community sponsors, media sponsor WFTV 9 Family Connection, the generous local businesses that donated to the silent auction, and the dedicated volunteers who donated their time. He was joined onstage by David Fuller, President of SunTrust Bank (Central Florida Division) and Hearts of Gold Event Committee Corporate Leader, to draw the winner of the evening’s raffle.

As bidding wars heated up – including one between Varela and Coalition Board Chair Elena Norman (Hilton Grand Vacations) – the silent auction was held open for an additional 45 minutes. At the last minute, event sponsor Orlando Magic generously offered an additional evening for 16 in a President’s Suite to settle the rivalry and raise additional funds for the Coalition.

The phenomenal evening culminated in the five featured performers gathering for an emotional performance of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” which Varela explained was symbolic of the Coalition’s supportive services. Guests, left breathless by the powerful performance, stood in a standing ovation, watching and cheering as donations filled an on-screen thermometer soaring past $250,000 and rising above $275,000.


Coalition for the Homeless is the largest provider of homeless services in Central Florida. This non-profit organization works to transform the lives of homeless men, women and children by providing crucial services to end their crisis of homelessness. On an average night, the Coalition serves over 600 men, women and children. Of that number, over 200 are children with an average age of eight years old, in close to 100 families.


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