Make-A-Wish Ball celebrates 20 years at the InterContinental Miami with Diana Ross performance, Oz theme

Norman Wedderburn, Shareef Malnik, Gabrielle Anwar and Robert Hill at the 2013 Make-A-Wish Ball.

On Saturday, Nov. 1, the 20th Annual InterContinental Miami Make-A-Wish Ball will be held at Hotel InterContinental Miami, featuring an “Oz-re-imagined” theme and performance by the legendary Diana Ross. Actress and filmmaker Gabrielle Anwar returns as celebrity emcee, for the fourth consecutive year.

For this special anniversary gala, the Ball’s “Three Amigos” — Shareef Malnik, Gala Chairman, philanthropist and proprietor of The Forge Restaurant; Robert Hill, Gala Host, and InterContinental Miami General Manager; and Norman Wedderburn, President and CEO of Make-A-Wish Southern Florida — have pulled out all the stops.

Following the Ball will be the InterContinental Miami Make-A-Wish Nightclub, highlighted by a fashion show of Oz-inspired looks from couture designers, presented by Neiman Marcus Bal Harbour. Individual tickets for the Miami Make-A-Wish Nightclub are $100 and can purchased here.

The InterContinental Miami Make-A-Wish Ball has raised more than $14 million to grant the wishes of over 3,000 South Florida children with life-threatening medical conditions. Over the past 19 years, the InterContinental Miami has donated more than $4 million in in-kind value to underwrite the ball’s food, beverage, parking accommodations and venue expenses, in addition to more than 8,000 management hours that have gone into the ball’s planning.

We chatted with the “Three Amigos” about this year’s landmark occasion.

How does it feel to be celebrating 20 years of the InterContinental Miami Make-A-Wish Ball?
Robert Hill:
I am so proud of the fact that over five different generations of General Managers have continued this legacy for 20 years. It is quite unique to have a business and a nonprofit work together for such a long time to leverage in-kind gifts to maximize the percentage of donated funds being put to good use.

Shareef Malnik: It’s hard to believe that the gala we are working on has become such an important icon in the community. It is humbling and reminds me how honored I am to be allowed to contribute.

Norman Wedderburn: It feels great. It shows InterContinental’s long-term commitment to our children, Make-A-Wish’s long-term commitment to the InterContinental Miami, and our supporters’ long-term commitment to both organizations.

How did you first get involved with the InterContinental Miami Make-A-Wish Ball and with Make-A-Wish Southern Florida?

RH: Nineteen years ago, I was a young Assistant Director of Food & Beverage at the InterContinental Miami and I had the opportunity to be involved in the planning and work behind the scenes on the night of the Ball.

SM: I was invited to the inaugural Ball 20 years ago by Lee Schrager, my predecessor. The following year he asked me to bring my dad, who became a Lifetime Benefactor along with his wife, Nancy. Ten years ago, my dad and the CEO and Founder of Make-A-Wish Southern Florida, Nancy Strom, asked me to chair the Gala after I made some suggestions about the future of the Ball. Two years ago, I was asked to join the board, and this year I was elected Chairman Designate Elect of the Board.

NW: In 1998, I was fortunate to be asked to join Make-A-Wish’s Board of Directors and that’s when I went to my first Ball.

In a world of short-term relationships, it is unique to be celebrating 20 years of the InterContinental Miami Make-A-Wish Ball. What dynamics of The Three Amigos relationship have contributed to the success of the event?
NW: First and foremost, we really like and respect each other. It’s so much fun to work with people you like while doing good. Additionally, we share the same core values and therefore we are almost always on the same page. That goes a long way.

How did the term “The Three Amigos” come about?
SM: It happened during Jack Miller’s reign as GM of the InterContinental Miami. It could have been the Three Musketeers. Luckily it wasn’t the Three Stooges.

NW: When Robert became the GM, he was immediately made an amigo.

RH: I had big shoes to fill and I am humbled to be able to comfortably call myself one of “The Three Amigos.”

What is one word you would use to describe each other?
SM: Committed.

NW: Shareef is visionary and Robert is so disciplined.

RH: Shareef is Genuine, and Norm is Caring.

How do you stay connected all year round?
NW:
We get together a lot socially. That’s what happens when you have a genuine friendship. We also have meetings all year so it’s rare that we go more than a month without seeing each other.

RH: We try to meet a few times a year for lunch or dinner. Whenever there is an opportunity to come together we take it, and if I receive a call or email from an amigo, it gets priority.

What are some of your fondest Ball memories?
RH:
Joan Jet and the Blackhearts — she jumped onstage and the entire ballroom was dancing like they were at a concert. I just love to see the guests of the Ball having a great time.

SM: Breaking the $1 million dollar mark at Ball No. 13, and then breaking the $2 million dollar mark at Ball No. 19.
 
Tell us about this year’s Ball theme; how did it come about?
RH:
The theme always starts with the brainchild of our creative Maxwell Blandford and then through a process of multiple production presentations and revisions, the incredible Ball Planning Committee creates an evening that will be memorable. It is the result of what transpires in our meetings over 11 months, and is a true reflection of the artistic talents of all parties involved in making the Ball come to life. This year, the theme is The Wizard of Oz ‘Reimagined.’ If you can imagine the Emerald City and the City in the Hunger Games colliding together, then it’s simple. That’s all I can say.

What will be most special about this year’s Ball?
SM:
Hopefully, breaking last year’s record.

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