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Believing in Girls Gala raises $208,000 for Pace Center for Girls, Lee

The Believing in Girls Gala has raised a record-breaking $208,000 in support of programs for Pace Center for Girls, Lee.

The black-tie preferred evening was held Feb. 5 at Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center in Fort Myers, and featured cocktails, dinner, dancing, a live auction and raffle.

“The energy, positivity and love for Pace and our mission filled the room at our Believing in Girls Gala, and we are so thankful for the community’s tremendous support,” said Jennifer Cellitti, executive director of Pace Center for Girls, Lee. “This outpouring of generosity will help provide vital academic and counseling services to girls right here in Lee County as we work to empower Pace girls in finding their voice and achieving their full potential.”

Proceeds from the event will support Pace Lee in providing girls and young women an opportunity for a better future through education, counseling, training and advocacy. Programs are based on the belief that all girls and young women, regardless of race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status, should be uniquely cared for, supported and encouraged to become the best versions of themselves through a path of healing and recovery.

Former Pace student Sophie White delivered the keynote address, highlighting the impact of Pace’s influential programs on her journey to overcome many challenges including low self-esteem and mental health issues. She transitioned from Pace Lee in 2020 and is now attending Florida SouthWestern State College for her associate degree, with plans to attend Florida Gulf Coast University for her MBA.

“Pace was the best thing to happen to me, even when I didn’t realize I needed it,” White said during the event. “At Pace, I went from the girl who missed school every day to the one that looked forward to seeing everyone. I gained the ability to look in the mirror and see that it’s okay that I don’t always fit in. Most importantly, Pace taught me to love myself.”

The Believing in Girls Gala was co-chaired by Rebekah and Jeff Barney with Dwayne Bergmann and Luis Insignares. The signature event was presented by the Gunterberg Charitable Foundation. Extravaganza sponsors were Alzada, Dwayne Bergmann Interiors, Gulfshore Life and Priority Marketing. The Illumination sponsor was the Rist Family Foundation. Enchanted sponsors were Lee Health, Publix Super Markets Charities and Sanibel Captiva Community Bank. Additional sponsors included Caloosa Tent & Rental, Creighton Construction & Development, Home-Tech, Jason’s Deli, Ruth Messmer Florist, Sarah Newcomb Photography and Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center.

To learn more about Pace Lee and its programs, visit www.pacecenter.org/locations/lee or call 239-425-2366.

About Pace Center for Girls, Lee

Pace Center for Girls, Lee, envisions a world where all girls and young women have power, in a just and equitable society. Founded in 1985, Pace provides free year-round middle and high school academics, case management, counseling, and life skills development in a safe and supportive environment that recognizes and deals with past trauma and builds upon girls’ individual strengths. Dedicated to meeting the social, emotional, and education needs of girls, Pace has a successful and proven program model that has changed the life trajectory of more than 40,000 girls and is recognized as one of the nation’s leading advocates for girls in need. For more information on Pace Center for Girls, Lee, call 239-425-2366 or visit www.pacecenter.org/locations/lee.

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