The Victory Center for Autism and Related Disorders will host its 16th annual gala 7 p.m. Saturday, March 12, at the Diplomat Golf & Tennis Club in Hallandale Beach. The event will honor the center’s founders, North Miami Beach tax attorney Barry Nelson and his wife, former Judge Judi Nelson, a mediator and arbitrator.
The couple co-founded The Victory Center, located on the grounds of the Michael-Ann Russell Jewish Community Center in North Miami Beach, in 2000 to help children like their son, Jesse, now 21. He will graduate from The Victory Center this August.
“There was no appropriate facility or program available for Jesse at that time,” Barry Nelson said. “Out of desperation came inspiration.”
The nonprofit, nonsectarian Victory Center provides educational services to individuals with autism and related developmental disabilities in a nurturing environment with a low student-to-teacher ratio to help them achieve their fullest potential.
The facility started in one room with four children. It has since expanded to six classrooms for students ages 3-22, offering three year-round programs: early intervention, academy (students on track to obtain a diploma) and vocational (life skills training).
The Center recently unveiled plans for a $3 million state-of-the-art facility to be built on the JCC campus, with construction slated to begin later this year.
In addition to beginning The Victory Center, the Nelsons are the founders of Buddy Bike, LLC, which manufactures and sells The Buddy Bike, an alternative inline tandem bicycle (for 2), designed to accommodate riders with special needs.
Chair for the 16th annual gala, “Color My World,” is Rhonda Hill. Emcee will be Dr. Michael Alessandri, director of University of Miami’s Center for Autism and Related Disabilities. The evening will feature cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, a sit-down dinner, silent auction and renowned artist Michael Israel, who will create a painting on-site to be auctioned to support the Victory Center.
BUDDHA WITH BLING
Miami Beach resident Jennifer Schuitemaker is an author, speaker and former model. Now she’s added a new line to her résumé: jewelry designer. The 47-year old mother of two (ages 18 and 15) started Buddha With Bling in October 2015. The company sells a line of more than 60 wrap leather tassel necklaces, wrap chokers and earrings made of 100 percent silk and/or leather. The one-of-a-kind pieces are created from materials sourced from around the world, then put together locally. Prices range from $49 for small earrings to $250 for the popular wrap choker necklaces.
“Buddha With Bling is for women who want more than just another piece of jewelry. It is for someone who longs to express their idea of freedom and independence outward,” Schuitemaker said. “Each Buddha With Bling tassel is paired with words to make you think, grow and expand further into who you came here to be.”
A Cincinnati native, Schuitemaker studied fashion design and merchandising at American College in London. She lived in cities throughout the world before settling in Miami Beach with her family in 2014. Her goal for Buddha With Bling: “To remind women of the magnificence they already possess inside.”
Buddha With Bling designs are available online and at several area boutiques. In addition, Schuitemaker will host two trunk shows (open to the public, with a discount on the merchandise): noon to 7 p.m. Friday, March 4, at Hint Boutique, 6301 Biscayne Blvd., Suite 103 in Miami; and 5 to 10 p.m. Thursday, March 31, at Earthy Chic Boutique, 4300 NE Second Ave., in Miami’s Design District.
▪ Miami Dade College will host its 33rd Miami International Film Festival March 4-13. It includes 129 films by filmmakers from 40 countries, plus parties, competitions, panel discussions and awards ceremonies. Screenings at the Olympia Theatre and other area venues. Opening night on March 4: Alex de la Iglesia’s My Big Night with appearance by Spanish recording star Raphael; closing night on March 13: Andrew Currie’s comedy The Steps starring James Brolin. For details and/or tickets, go to: www.miamifilmfestival.com or call 305-237-FILM (3456).
▪ Women of Tomorrow Mentor & Scholarship Program will host its annual gala 7 p.m. March 12 at Mandarin Oriental, Miami. Honorees include Trish and Dan Bell; Laurie andTom Cunnington; Baptist Health South Florida; and Mentor of the Year, Nancy Frehling. Program Founders are Jennifer Valoppi and Don Browne. Gala chair is Marisa Toccin Lucas. Tickets are $500 each; $450 (ages 35 and under). To attend, call 305-371-3330 or visit www.womenoftomorrow.org.
▪ The Little Lighthouse Foundation’s annual Hearts and Stars Gala happens 9 to 2 a.m. March 12 at the Miami Seaplane Base at Watson Island. The Venetian masquerade party will feature casino-style gambling, tastings from top restaurants and caterers, music and dancing. The nonprofit assists South Florida families facing educational, financial and medical hardships. For tickets ($175 each) call 305-417-8553 or visit www.heartsandstarsgala.com.
Beach Buzz appears every other Sunday, and focuses on people and businesses throughout the Beaches, Aventura and Miami. To reach Debra K. Leibowitz, call 305-531-7887 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, or become a fan of her Beach Buzz page on Facebook.