More than 120 community supporters came together to give a final salute to 10 years of the Celebrity Martini Glass Auction (CMGA) during an Evening of Appreciation held April 9 at Sea Salt in Naples.
The sold-out private dinner marked a farewell to the annual event where martini glasses signed by celebrities or American heroes and designed by noted artists were sold at a live auction. CMGA founder, Brenda Melton, developed the concept that linked celebrities, artists and the generous Naples community in a one-of-a-kind event. Dozens of celebrity-signed, artist-designed martini glasses have been secured over the years, raising nearly $5 million for local veteran causes, including Gulf Coast Veterans & Friends, Home Base Veteran & Family Care, Naples Take a Soldier Fishing and Wounded Warriors of Collier County. Funds raised during the evening of appreciation will be distributed to each of the four charities in honor of CMGA’s final farewell.
“Our freedom is not free, and I founded the CMGA more than a decade ago to honor the patriotism, service and sacrifice of our veterans,” said event founder Brenda Melton. “From significant treasures to incredible talents to a selfless giving of time, it is because of generous and passionate friends that CMGA has made a transformational difference in the lives of so many veterans over the past 10 years.”
Several celebrity guests were in attendance, including legendary entertainer and long-standing CMGA benefactor Tony Orlando, Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter Deniece Williams, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and The Moody Blues singer-songwriter John Lodge, Tony Award winning producer and creative film and stage pioneer Steve Fickinger, and American Idol season 12 contestant Lazaro Arbos. Additionally, 60% of guests in attendance were veterans. Williams opened the program with a performance of “Let’s Hear It for the Boy,” and the evening continued with special presentations, Venetian-inspired cuisine by Sea Salt, decadent dessert by Norman Love Confections, live performances by Williams and Orlando, and an after party with live music and dancing.
In recognition of the generosity of special advocates who have supported the event since the beginning, CMGA presented Yellow Ribbon Awards – martini glasses adorned with a yellow ribbon signed by Orlando – to Jay and Patty Baker, Norman and Mary Love, Larry and Michele Jones, Fabrizio and Ingrid Aielli, KC and Georgia Stock, and Kaleigh Grover. Orlando then performed “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree,” a song symbolizing enduring love during times of war.
A final community martini glass was also gifted to longtime supporters Jay and Patty Baker. Designed by local artist Heather Corace Bischoff, the glass featured a vintage movie reel nestled inside a U.S. military jet engine ring, artisan-made comedy and drama masks, a pewter statue by Jacki Alvo of the iconic Victory at Iwo Jima, volcanic rock and resin, and a classic Shure 55 microphone.
A soldier in attendance – former Army Infantry Staff Sargent Matt Skowron – also took the stage to show his appreciation for Melton’s impact on his life, presenting her with a battle flag that Skowron carried with him throughout his deployment in Iraq.
The private dinner was sponsored by Premier Patriot Sponsor UBS Private Wealth Management-The Matina Group. Patriot Sponsors included Breitling, John R. Wood Properties, Naples Illustrated, Priority Marketing, Renée Gaddis Interiors and Stock Development. Hero Sponsors included Bua-Bell Group, The Gold Lion Agency, Norman Love Confections, Lyn Paulsin, Patrick Dearborn and Sea Salt. Bar Sponsors included Allegro Group and Maxwell Mortgage Team.
The Veterans Support Fund was established in 2018 by the Celebrity Martini Glass Auction in partnership with the Collier Community Foundation to distribute funds to local charities meeting the physical, emotional, and psychological and social needs of veterans. Although the annual auction has ended, the Fund continues to operate through the Foundation and donations can be made at CFCollier.org.
About Celebrity Martini Glass Auction
The Celebrity Martini Glass Auction was started in 2008 when Brenda Melton asked friends to design a martini glass as a toast to “Sex and the City’s” Cosmopolitan cocktail. Inspired by her friends’ creativity, she later asked the films’ stars to sign glasses for a Sex and the City 2 debut party. Those glasses were auctioned by the Naples International Film Festival, raising $15,000. The event became a must-have invitation, and grew to raise nearly $5 million for charities, primarily for veterans. For information and to donate, visit NaplesCMGA.com.