“Over the years we have combined our love of wines and desire to give back. That turned into the Chi Chi Miguel Throwdown. We raised 100 percent more this year than we raised last year. In an effort to keep our event private, intimate and exclusive, we limit the number of guests to no more than 125 each year. They generously open up their hearts and wallets to make this wine charity event such a huge success. And best of all, all of our proceeds go directly to the charity organizations we support.”
With $528,444 raised for seven Gulf Coast charities in 2012, it was a record-breaking year for the Sixth Annual Chi Chi Miguel Throwdown series of events organized by founders Michael and Valerie Thompson.
Six years ago, the Thompsons began organizing and hosting the Throwdown as a party for friends, and in the last two years, turned their party into a fundraiser to benefit local charities. Avid wine aficionados and residents of Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort in Northwest Florida, their philanthropic efforts have been featured in Wine Spectator magazine.
In what has now become a three-day, star-studded happening with celebrities and world-class wine vintners, the Throwdown encompassed an event at Lovelace Interiors in Destin with famed celebrity Chef Emeril Lagasse sharing his culinary expertise, a Sip ‘n’ Shop tour for the ladies at boutiques along Scenic Corridor 30-A in South Walton County, and a Kelly Plantation golf tournament. The grand finale was an outdoor gathering at the Thompsons’ home for a barbeque competition. Five teams competed, including celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse, 23-year baseball veteran Rusty Staub, and Jonathan Cain, musician, songwriter and longtime member of the rock band, Journey.
Celebrity judges James Molesworth, senior editor of Wine Spectator magazine; Chef John Currence, proprietor of City Grocery Restaurant Group; and local Chef Jim Richard, chef/owner of Stinky’s Fish Camp and Blue Mountain Catering, all collaborated to name the best barbeque team who would win the esteemed ‘perpetual’ traveling trophy. This year, Emeril Lagasse’s ‘The Herbert Brothers’ team captured the honor.
An integral part of the Throwdown in the Thompsons’ backyard barbeque evening is a prize bevy of unique lots being live auctioned by one of the country’s top auctioneers, Ursula Hermacinski.
Live auction items featured highly sought after packages which included a dinner with academy award winning actor Morgan Freeman; Revelation wine and autographed guitar by Jonathan Cain of Journey; two rare five liter bottles of French Burgundy with two baseball bats autographed by Rusty Staub and Ty Cobb; a dinner for six in the Destin home of Emeril and Alden Lagasse and a fishing trip aboard his boat, the ‘Ole Miss’. Other live auction items included a Hawaiian vacation, two SEC football extravaganzas, fishing trip at Ocean Reef Club, trip to New York, Colorado ski vacation, Carnivale du Vin VIP trip to New Orleans, Cabo San Lucas trip, art from George Rodrigue and Justin Gaffrey, and numerous other high end offerings. Morgan Freeman’s dinner fetched the highest bid for the evening at $80,000.
The best part of this story is the benefitting charities. They were Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center, Alaqua Animal Refuge, Children’s Volunteer Health Network, Emeril Lagasse Foundation, Kidz1st Fund, George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts, and Camille’s Art for Autism. The Thompsons donated 100% of the $528,444 raised this year directly to the respective charities. For example, the Morgan Freeman dinner generated $80,000, which benefited the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center.
“Valerie and Mike Thompson are such kind and giving people. Their generosity is humbling,” said ECCAC’s executive director Julie Hurst. “Through their Chi Chi Miguel Throwdown event, the dollars raised have given our Child Advocacy Center the resources to help restore the often lost childhoods of children who have experienced abuse, abandonment or neglect. The children we serve thank God for people like them every day. They are truly angels.”
Next year’s event will take place on April 6, 2013. For further information, visit ChiChiMiguelThrowdown.com, or follow the event on Facebook at Facebook.com/ChiChiMiguelThrowndown.