By Jaimie M. Engle

Space Coast Early Intervention, the place where
kids learn and grow together

Friday, January 24, 2015—Tim Wakefield, 17 year veteran ball player for the Boston Red Sox, plays the gracious host for celebrity friends and colleagues at the Space Coast Early Intervention Center in Melbourne, Florida. The charity golf fundraiser, now in its 23rd year, raises money for the school, whose Executive Director, Leslie Roth, focuses on integrating children with special needs with typically developing children to learn from each other.

Tim Wakefield promised the previous director, Betsey Farmer, “If I ever make it, I’ll hold a charity golf tournament each year for the kids.” And every January, true to his word, he leads a pack of generous celebrities and legends to support this cause.

Celebrities arrive a day early to visit the school and interact with the children. “It’s one thing to know the cause behind a tournament,” Tim says. “But wouldn’t it be better for everyone involved to see why they are here?”

Each golfer plays for their “Captains” or a specific group of students whose adorable faces adorn plastic buttons that each celebrity wears. “It’s why they come back each year,” said Tim. “It’s about the relationships they build with these kids.”

Iron Chef Lee Hillson of the Phoenician and Chef Dale Flores of the Windsor, both in Phoenix, Arizona, fly in each year to cook the charity dinner. “It’s like returning home to see family,” said Chef Lee who participates in three charity events annually. “But this is the only event where I get to see the kids and where the money goes.”

With the support of the Rialto’s Executive Chef, Donald Edge, who freely opens his kitchen, and the volunteer culinary service of local realtor Jason Engle, the chefs create a 5-star meal of short ribs in demi-glaze with chili-mac au gratin and winter vegetables.

The evening commences with event sponsor Bruce Nelson of Cocoa Hyundai (co-sponored by Tracey Nelson-Latshaw and Michelle Russell) welcoming the crowd and introducing Tim Wakefield, who in turn thanks each celebrity one by one for sharing their time, honoring them by citing their professional accomplishments: all-star athletes, Grammy winning songwriters, a four star general, and TV personalities.

Leslie Roth expresses her heartfelt thanks and the importance of giving as the Center unveils “The Tim and Stacy Wakefield Scholarship”by presenting the couple with a beautiful plaque.

Bob Dibella, MetLife Financial Planner and long time resident says, “It’s amazing to see so many people in our community rally to raise money for the kids.”

Brewers first base coach Mike Guerrero adds, “It’s a great opportunity that keeps growing.”

Tim showed a video featuring one child’s journey from heart surgery at two days old to entering the Center with a few social skills at age three. Today, she flourishes, ready to enter kindergarten able to read books and write her own name, thanks to the loving staff of the school.

The stage shifted as the night’s emcee, actor Kirt Trutner, takes the podium. Super Bowl winner Darin Jordan got the crowd pumped, performing as auctioneer for the live auction: donated trips, signed sports memorabilia, and unique celebrity events. The silent auction runs simultaneously, offering framed pictures and jerseys, autographed albums, and memorabilia to the highest bidder. In a few hours, more than $160,000 is raised for the Space Coast Early Intervention Center.

The night came to a close with a live performance by Grammy winners Richard Leigh and Keith Stegall, and award-winning songwriter D. Vincent Williams.

Generosity, humor, and heart can accomplish great things. The promise of one man, positioned to live out his dreams, has brought together many others on similar life paths. Through many prominent members of the community, who give freely to this wonderful cause, Space Coast kids with special needs will continue to have a place to learn and just be special.

To see photos from this event, click here.