Naples Leading Philanthropists Power Largest Galas

Naples, Florida, boasts a vibrant philanthropic spirit, and at the helm of this movement stand remarkable women and a powerhouse couple. Through their unwavering dedication and passion, these event chairs have orchestrated incredible galas, raising over $1 million yearly for causes dear to their hearts.

(L to R): Beverly Fanning, Jenny Haire, Ashley Gerry, and Jessica Shwedel

Photo Credit: Erik Keller

Jessica Shwedel, 2022 chair of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) gala, champions the fight against type 1 diabetes with fierce determination. Her leadership has been instrumental in raising over $1 million annually, with a record-breaking $1.8 million last year, fueling vital research and offering a beacon of hope for a cure.

Ashley Gerry, chair of the 2024 Children’s Museum of Naples Night at the Museum gala, “C’mon Dreamhouse,” fuels the flame of childhood curiosity and wonder. Under her guidance, the event has become a pillar of the Naples community with fun dress-up themes, raising millions to provide enriching educational experiences for Naples’ young minds.

Jenny Haire, prior chair of the STARability gala, leads the cause of inclusion and empowerment for individuals with disabilities. Her tireless efforts have propelled the event to unbelievable heights, raising over $3 million last year to create opportunities and enrich lives, ensuring that everyone has a chance to shine. For the last two years, Jenny has focused on co-chairing Women Rock Philanthropy.

Beverly Fanning, co-chair of the 2023 Youth Haven gala, Starry Nights, dedicates her energy to protecting and nurturing vulnerable youth. Her leadership has ensured the success of this critical fundraiser, raising millions to provide shelter, education, and support, offering hope and a brighter future to countless young lives. Last year’s gala helped raise over $1.3 million for the vulnerable children of Southwest Florida.

Naples’ philanthropic landscape boasts few stars brighter than Amy and John Quinn. This powerhouse couple isn’t just lighting up the social scene; they’re shining a light on mental health awareness and Naples’ youth. Serving as 2024 Honorary Chairs for Youth Haven’s Starry Nights Gala and spearheading the David Lawrence Center’s 2024 Sound Minds event, their impact ripples beyond galas and into the very critical needs of our community. The Quinns are true champions of compassion and architects of hope.

As we sail into season and 2024 fundraising events for many local non-profits, these exceptional women and this dynamic couple, alongside countless others, will be the beating heart of Naples’ philanthropic landscape. Beyond fundraising events, their galas are celebrations of hope, driven by generosity and steadfast determination. As they continue to lead the charge, Naples can step into the future knowing that its foundation is built on the bedrock of compassion and the boundless power of a community united for the greater good.

Amy and John Quinn
David Lawrence Centers Sound Minds Gala, Youth Haven Starry Nights Gala

Amy and John Quinn

In the vibrant landscape of Naples philanthropy, many shine bright because of the generosity of Amy and John Quinn. Their passion, fueled by a deep understanding of mental health challenges, has become a source of hope for countless individuals and families battling the invisible scars of emotional well-being. Their inspiration runs deep, rooted in their family legacies. Amy, a marriage and family therapist and education doctorate holder, witnessed the transformative power of helping others navigate life’s complexities. John, hailing from a lineage of military service, embodies the spirit of dedicating oneself to their community. Together, they are a force of compassion with a unique blend of professional expertise and endless empathy.

Their philanthropic endeavors paint a vivid picture of their commitment. From NCEF’s mental health initiatives to the David Lawrence Centers, Kids’ Minds Matter, and Youth Haven, the Quinns are passionately dedicated to easily accessible, effective mental healthcare.

However, their impact goes beyond generous donations. To improve mental health resources beyond crisis intervention, The Quinns lend their voices to initiatives that prioritize well-being and equip individuals with the tools to navigate life’s challenges. They actively work to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness, promoting awareness through personal stories and collaborative efforts. Their goal? To create a Naples that prioritizes mental health, where affordable treatment is within reach for all—without the barrier of long waitlists, and where prevention takes center stage in fostering a resilient community. They don’t measure their success in dollars or accolades; they measure it in the data-driven results demonstrated by NCEF’s research, the smiles of children empowered by Kids’ Minds Matter, and the hope rekindled in the eyes of families supported by Youth Haven.

The Quinns are currently championing mental health as chairs for the 2024 David Lawrence Centers Sound Minds gala with guest speaker Brooke Shields, held on March 21st, 2024, at The Ritz-Carlton Naples, Tiburon. They are also serving as honorary chairs for Youth Haven’s Starry Nights Gala, held on March 23rd, 2024, at The Ritz-Carlton Naples, Tiburon.

Their message to aspiring philanthropists is simple: “Find your passion and pursue it with unwavering commitment.” They believe that every thread of giving creates a powerful source of hope and change, from volunteering time to financial support. The Quinns are more than a power couple; they are true advocates of mental well-being. Their story is a call to action, a reminder that compassion can forge a brighter future for our community.

Beverly Fanning
Youth Haven Starry Nights Gala

Beverly Fanning

Photo Credit: Erik KellarBeverly Fanning isn’t just a philanthropist, she’s a radiant spark, igniting a vibrant flame of hope and progress throughout the Naples community. Relocating full-time from Atlanta four years ago, she embraced Naples with open arms, discovering her calling in the philanthropic scene.

Her passion is driven by a deep love for her new home and her parents, “My parents were hard workers. My mother volunteered for all my activities, kept our home immaculate, and had meals ready at 5 PM sharp. She poured her heart into everything she did. We did simple things as a family, like camping and taking Sunday car rides. I’m grateful I’ve never forgotten the way I was brought up and the values they instilled in me”.

Beverly’s impact on Youth Haven, Southwest Florida’s only emergency and residential shelter for abused, abandoned, or neglected boys and girls, is a testament to her transformative power. For over three years, she has been mentoring Vonte, a young man she has supported through high school and paved his path to college. Though an accident dimmed his athletic aspirations of playing football, Vonte will continue his academic pursuits at Florida A&M University, fueled by Beverly’s unwavering belief in him. Keeping his love for athletics alive, she recently gifted him a new set of golf clubs, a favorite pastime she hopes to share with him.

Beyond mentoring, Beverly co-chaired the 2022 American Cancer Society’s Bucket List Bash last year, raising $1.1MM for local cancer initiatives. She also supports annual events at the Naples Zoo and other local non-profit organizations, leaving a trail of positive change in her wake. Beverly’s philanthropic vision ensures essential programs receive all needed support. When asked about the importance of philanthropy in the community, Beverly’s eyes lit up with an inspiring fervor, “I believe philanthropy plays a vital role in filling the gaps where funds are needed and places where they would not have the money if we did not help or supplement the programs. It brings hope and support to those who need it most, enriching the lives of individuals and strengthening our community as a whole.”

Beverly’s commitment to Youth Haven remains steadfast as she looks forward to 2024. As co-chair for the Starry Nights event, alongside Ingrid Aielli, Rufino Hernandez, and Brenda Melton, she is dedicated to making the occasion—a gala to be held on Saturday, March 23, 2024, from 5:30 PM to 11:00 PM—a success. Her tireless efforts inspire us, reminding us that even the smallest act of kindness can spark a vibrant glow in the world around us.

Ashley Gerry
Children’s Museum of Naples Night at the Museum Gala

Ashley Gerry

Photo Credit: Erik KellarAshley Gerry shines with unparalled brilliance. Her journey, woven from childhood empathy and nurtured by unwavering dedication, has positioned her as one of Naples’s most influential philanthropic leaders.

Her canvas isn’t confined to a single cause; it’s a boundless panorama of giving. Volunteering first as a “pediatric hugger” at Golisano Children’s Hospital to spearheading crucial fundraising for JDRF and The Community School of Naples, Ashley paints a future brimming with opportunity.

The Children’s Museum of Naples and the Naples Children and Education Foundation are testaments to her leadership. But Ashley truly emerged as a force of nature in the face of Hurricane Ian’s fury. Orchestrating a $1.5 million fundraising concert in just 45 days, she rallied her community, proving that even in the darkest storms, kindness can be the guiding star. “Giving back isn’t just a cause; it’s my compass,” Ashley shared, her voice echoing with quiet strength. “As long as I can, I will illuminate the path for those in need.” Her steadfast commitment isn’t driven by accolades, but by an understanding of Naples and the needs of its residents—children and families.

Her vision extends far beyond individual acts, “I would like to see our local medical and mental health programs increase so that everyone has the care they need. To see the needs of families being met so children have the education, the healthcare, the afterschool care, and their overall needs being met so that they can have the opportunities to succeed later in life”.

Her message is a true catalyst of change, “I am a true believer in the statement ‘If you see something, say something.’ I don’t believe in sitting around and just talking about issues and problems that you see. I think that actions speak louder than words. Taking action when you see a need is the only way.”

On February 10th, 2024, she will chair the annual Night at the Museum “C’mon Dreamhouse,” an iconic evening to benefit the Children’s Museum of Naples, whose mission is to provide an exciting, inspiring environment where children and their families play, learn, and dream together.

Ashley Gerry’s story isn’t just a personal triumph; it’s a testament to the power of one woman to ignite change. It’s a call to action, a reminder that within each of us lies the potential to make a difference and to illuminate the path toward a brighter future.

Jenny Haire
STARability Gala, Women Rock Philanthropy

Jenny Haire

Photo Credit: Erik KellarJenny Haire’s passion wasn’t a single spark, but the warm embrace of Naples itself. “I have a natural instinct to care and give back to my hometown,” she explains. Witnessing the transformative power of Naples’ renowned fundraising events, like The Bucket List Bash and Naples Winter Wine Festival, ignited a flame within her. “I fell in love, and my passion for philanthropy was born,” she says, a flame that has steadily illuminated her journey.

One of Jenny’s most profound contributions shines through her dedication to the STARability Foundation, whose mission is to empower individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Cooney family’s dedication to the Trailblazer Academy, a vocational program for adults with disabilities, touched her deeply, and she became an integral part of their fundraising efforts. Steering the STARability Gala during the challenging COVID year stands out as a testament to her resilience and resourcefulness. Faced with unprecedented challenges, she orchestrated “Dining for the Stars,” a series of twelve intimate dinner parties that raised a staggering $1.2 million, exceeding expectations and showcasing her power of creative adaptation.

Jenny’s simple yet profound goal is to inspire a sense of shared responsibility to encourage everyone to find their own way to give back, be it with time, expertise, or resources. This spirit of giving is woven into the very fabric of Naples, thanks in part to her tireless efforts. “I believe accepting and including more adults with disabilities within our community is a pressing social issue,” she states. “Naples has numerous centers supporting various causes, but none specifically for the disabled. I feel this population of persons has been overlooked for too long, and it’s our personal responsibility as citizens to provide a space that enriches their daily lives.”

With multiple events and fundraisers spearheaded on her behalf over the next months, Jenny supports The Women’s Foundation private wine-tasting event at Bleu Provence on January 11th as sponsor chair; The STAR gala – scheduled for February 3rd at The Ritz- Carlton Naples, Tiburon; and the exclusive patron party at the historic Keewaydin Lodge benefitting the STARability Foundation.

Jenny’s success can be seen in the faces of individuals empowered to join a cause, in the awareness raised, and in the partnerships forged. Addressing the challenges of her community, like engaging newcomers and inspiring younger generations, is a constant pursuit, one she tackles with perseverance, enthusiasm, and dedication. Her future vision for Naples is one of inclusivity and shared responsibility. Her philanthropy plays a vital role in generating support for those in need, ensuring that every thread, every act of kindness, contributes to a brighter future.

Jenny Haire’s story is a call to action for us all. Her infectious optimism, smile, and kindness, along with her unwavering belief in the power of community and her dedication to making a difference, serve as a beacon of hope for the Naples community. From gala co-chair to advocate for inclusion, Jenny’s impact is a symphony of change, one note at a time, echoing through the lives of all those she has touched.

Jessica Shwedel
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF)

Jessica Shwedel

Photo Credit: Erik KellarJessica’s story is one of resilience, love, and dedication. It began with a diagnosis, a challenge, and a mother’s unwavering commitment to her daughter’s health. When Jessica’s daughter, Leah, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 5, the world shifted. Nothing could have prepared Jessica for this new reality, but her maternal instincts kicked in, transforming her into a warrior for her daughter’s well-being.

Jessica’s advice to her younger self emphasizes the crucial importance of cherishing good health. She acknowledges the sacrifices she would make to give her daughter just one carefree day without the constant worry of managing blood sugar levels.

Driven by an unwavering love and a fierce determination to find a cure, Jessica embarked on a journey into philanthropy. Inspired by the strength of her grandmother, a fighter against multiple illnesses, Jessica knew she had to do more. She needed to raise awareness, advocate for better treatment options, and ultimately find a cure for type 1 diabetes.

Monetary gains don’t measure Jessica’s success in the philanthropic realm; her impact measures it. She tirelessly educates others about the complexities of type 1 diabetes, dispelling myths and highlighting the daily struggles of living with this chronic illness. Through her efforts, Jessica helps others understand the invisible battle her daughter fights daily.

Jessica dedicates her energy to supporting organizations like JDRF, Help A Diabetic Child, and The New York Stem Cell Foundation. She believes that stem cell research holds immense potential for type 1 diabetics, and she actively supports these efforts to offer them a brighter future.

Through her philanthropic work, Jessica has learned that there’s no greater feeling than helping others. While she shies away from being labeled a “power woman,” her dedication and achievements speak volumes. Her story inspires others to look beyond themselves and find fulfillment in making a difference in the lives of others.

Jessica’s passion for raising awareness and supporting the type 1 diabetes community shines through her involvement in various projects. She has consistently gone above and beyond, from organizing free dental care for those in need to leading fundraising walks and chairing galas. Jessica’s leadership as chair of the JDRF Hope Gala notably raised the most money for the local chapter.

Beyond her efforts, Jessica empowers her daughter, Leah, to become an advocate for herself and other type 1 diabetics. Their joint efforts demonstrate the true meaning of collective impact, including speaking engagements with congress members and participation in awareness campaigns.

As a valiant advocate in the search for a cure, Jessica’s dedication brings hope to those diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. She stands as a remarkable example to those aspiring to create positive change in the world.