It is time once again for a shameless plug on behalf of a charitable cause that is near and dear to my heart.

I had lunch a few weeks ago with Dr. Larry R. Thompson. Dr. Thompson was the first CEO of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, and is largely credited with being the man behind its creation. He retained and worked with famed architect I.M. Pei to create its iconic design.

After the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Larry spent a couple years as director of the Flint Cultural Center in Flint, Michigan. Today, he is president of world renowned Ringling College of Art + Design here in Sarasota. 

The purpose of our lunch was to secure his participation in a fundraiser I run for a local civic club, The Greater Sertoma Sarasota Celebrity Roast. Fortunately for us this is something he has graciously agreed to do. After all, moving a founder of a “Hall of Fame” into our “Hall of Shame” is no small deal.

I wrote about the Roast last year, when we “dishonored” State Senator Mike Bennett. That event was a terrific success, raising $21,000 for the charitable endeavors of the Sertoma Club of Greater Sarasota. And what are those endeavors? Simply put, we try to give children with hearing and communication challenges a shot at a normal life. Trust me, there is nothing more gratifying than the work we do.

The Sertoma Club of Greater Sarasota funded and staffed the First Sound program at Sarasota Memorial Hospital. That program uses highly specialized equipment to conduct hearing tests for newborns, allowing for hearing problem diagnosis and intervention years earlier than previously possible. The program was so successful that it is now a required procedure for newborns at all Florida hospitals. For over 30 years we have run a Speech Clinic for children whose families cannot afford traditional services (www.sertomakids.org).

The club does much more, buying equipment, computers, and software for the hearing disabled, as well as providing scholarships, educational stipends and supporting broader causes. As a past chairman and president, I am very proud to be part of this organization.

This year's roast will be the best one to date, as we have a powerhouse panel of local Roasters lined up to participate. If you are local to the Sarasota area, I invite you to join us March 16th. You can learn all about the evening at our roast website, www.SarasotaRoast.com. (Of course, we could use sponsors, too!)

Thanks for indulging me, and if you are in the area, we would love to see you at the Roast!

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