It’s Caribana time and if you don’t know what Caribana time is, well, you’ve never been there.
Actually, Caribana is a place that exists only in the imagination. It’s an annual event to benefit the Bob Sierra Family YMCA and it takes you to a place that can exist only in your mind.
Last year, participants were players for their favorite NFL team. This year, the 13th Caribana, attendees are back in college all over again. This year’s theme is “Yesterdaze,” and togas are more than welcome at the 6:30 p.m. Nov. 16 event at the University of South Florida’s Marshall Student Center. All proceeds will benefit the Sierra YMCA, which even offers college scholarships to high school students.
The party will be hosted by Jim and Lori Gibson. Mercy Powell, who has been at Bob Sierra for 11 years, will coordinate the event.
“There is such a great effort to raise scholarship funds and Caribana is a great way to do it,” Powell said. “It’s all about focusing on the needs of the children.”
There are already plenty of sponsors, but Powell said they can use more, as well as auction items donated by community businesses. It’s all about the kids.
“Without the help of the community, a lot of kids could never participate in the Y,” Powell said. “Every single thing we get is donated to the YMCA. We have great volunteers who make this work every year. With the way the economy is riding, it’s like a roller coaster, but every year the community comes through for us.”
This isn’t one of those charity fundraisers where people come and wear tuxedos and talk about wine. Picture your favorite frat house from the ‘80s and be ready to have fun. It’s an old-time throwback night. The cost is $100 per person or $800 per table and guests must be 21 or over to attend.
Powell stresses that all funds raised will help children who couldn’t otherwise enjoy the YMCA because of family financial hardship. Every dollar, Powell said, goes to programs such as life-saving swim lessons, licensed tutoring for afterschool children, summer day camps for students with working parents, and special programs for kids with mental and physical challenges.
“It’s more than just a party,” Powell said. “It’s about giving something very important to the community while they have fun at the same time.”
By the way, how did they come up with the Caribana name?
“It doesn’t mean anything,” Powell said. “We just made it up. We started with a Caribbean theme. We did it for a while and decided to do something else. Caribana is kind of like Margaritaville. It’s not a place, it’s a state of mind.”