Florida Elks News Editor:
Rachael King
Entire contents copyright 2023 by the
Florida State Elks Association Inc.
P.O. Box 49
Umatilla, FL 32784-0049

Share Your Story

We'd love to see & share your Lodge & District Events!

FSEA - Share Your Story

Let's promote what our Florida Elks are doing to support your community


Millenium Walkway Logo

Preserve any person, event, or memory with a personalized brick at your Florida Elks Youth Camp in Umatilla, Florida. 

Learn More

Florida Elks News Online

Daniel Masi

The fourth annual Unmasking Autism Gala — We’re on the Move — held April 27 at the Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront, was a sold-out event and shows that there is no stopping us now! This black-tie event started with a cocktail reception and was followed by dinner, live and silent auctions, guest speakers, networking, and dancing with the St. Petersburg band Magic. A heartfelt thank you goes to our mistress of ceremonies, Wendy Ryan, ABC Action News evening anchor, for keeping the show moving and sharing wonderful stories about kids on the spectrum and incredible organizations like Florida Elks Children’s Therapy Services that put children on the forefront of everything they do!

Congratulations go to Dr. Fadi Saba for being recognized as the 2024 Un­masking Autism Humanitarian Award recipient for his work and staunch support of programs for kids with au­tism spectrum disorder and their families. Seeing how effective access to therapy can be for children with ASD drives Dr. Saba to continue to support the mission of Florida Elks Children’s Therapy Services. He has been a gold sponsor of the Unmasking Autism Gala since its inception.

Our guest speaker and member of St. Petersburg Elks Lodge #1224, Rey­naldo “Rey” Garcia, was diagnosed with autism when he was in kindergarten. He spoke about autism and the dif­ficulties that come with it. As he stated in his presentation, the symptoms of autism will always be there but in the right environment and right programs, you can accomplish many things, which is what he is continuing to do.

Again this year, Al Black, one of the original Highwaymen artists, was asked to come back by popular demand to do a live painting, which was auctioned to the highest bidder, Dr. Saba, for $7,000. Black believes in helping others and is happy to do this for a wonderful cause.

Our auctioneer, Blake Kennedy, is spectacular and really brings enthusi­asm, fun and excitement to the floor! There were many live auction items, such as trips and a Tampa Bay Bour­bon Boyz basket, and then all eyes were on the VW children’s battery-operated car with a Florida Elks Children’s Therapy Services wrap on it. Talk about a bidding war between guests! It generated $3,500 of support, which will help more children within the spectrum receive needed treat­ment. Kennedy then told the crowd that if they didn’t want to go on a trip or buy a basket, they could still help by donating during the live ask auction. Excellent job, Blake, and many dona­tions were made by our gala guests. The silent auction also offered many great bidding opportunities. The auc­tions always bring out the competitive­ness in everyone while they still have fun and help raise funds for those with autism spectrum disorder receive much-needed therapy.

A huge announcement was made at the gala. If you were in attendance at the gala, you got a sneak peek at the new FECTS Florida Elks for Autism program that, which will be offered in collabora­tion with Adult and Pediatric Institute to offer free (ADOS-2) Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, Second Editon test­ing at no cost to families at the Florida Elks Youth Camp. Stay tuned for more information coming soon!

We would like to thank all the individuals, table sponsors and gold sponsors of this year’s gala! Gold sponsors: Dr. Fadi Saba, Speer Dream Foundation, and Florida Atlantic Securities. Table sponsors: Dr. & Mrs. Paul DeWitt, Masi Insurance, APG Electric, Travis Family, Callahan Wealth Management, Stephen “Snuffy” & Amy Smith, Dwell Creations, and Chris Miles. Elks lodge table sponsors: Deep Creek #2763, Holiday Isles #1912, Inverness #2522, Largo #2159, St. Petersburg #1224 and Winter Park #1830. Thanks go to Dr. Kunal Amin who has been our table wine sponsor for the last three years and Mr. & Mrs. Brian Artze for their donation to help with the cost of the cocktail hour. This year, Tito’s also sponsored and offered two spe­cialty drinks at no charge. We heard the espresso martinis were awesome!

A special heartfelt thanks go to our vol­unteers who make up the Unmasking Autism Gala Committee — Michael & Patty Pounders, Brian Metzgar, Thom­as Sullivan, Brian Haverfield, Bonnie Barnes, Robert & Joanne Matos, Mar­lene Evans, Rick Marks, Toni Goodrich, Margie Schulz, Heidi Green and Larry Romig. A special shout out goes to Laz Suarez, FSEA marketing manager and website administrator, and Megan Menges, FSEA meetings and events coordinator, and Shannan Kellogg, FSEA HR and senior projects manager, for being our cashiers for the evening. There are so many to mention who help, so please accept my heartfelt apologies as I did not mean to leave anyone out! Their dedication and countless hours of work for this event is what make this event successful and unforgettable. Every detail is covered, even with the decorations in the bathrooms. Thank you, Patty Pounders!

Lastly, I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to ev­eryone who attended. Thank you! Know that through your attendance and donations, you are helping to make a difference in a child’s life with ASD and helping them and their families overcome their daily challenges.

Stay tuned for information about next year’s Unmask­ing Autism Gala! Please visit unmaksingautism.com to see the beautiful pictures and fun that was had by all!

Dan Masi

Development Director