A growing Deer Park tradition is raising money to help children with brain cancer throughout the Greater Houston area.
The fifth annual A Taste of Italy will be March 21 at the Republic Grill, 1600 Georgia Ave. The wine pairing epicurean event is from 6:30 to 9 p.m. and is a fundraiser for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation.
Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 at the door. If participants choose, they can purchase their tickets via a check made out to Maggie Sims. Tickets purchased in this manner will have their donation matched by Spectra Energy where Sims is employed.
"If you feel comfortable with writing a check to me, I can provide a receipt and everything for you. Spectra Energy will match every dollar that I turn in," she said. Last year, Spectra Energy donated $7,500 in matching funds in the name of A Taste of Italy patrons.
Contact Sims at 281-478-6742 for more information on Spectra's donation matching program. Tickets are also available at Norma's Country Dreams, Ed's Flower Cottage of Deer Park and the Deer Park Chamber of Commerce.
While Americanized Italian dishes consist of a pasta with either a tomato-based sauce and mozzarella cheese or a creamy white Alfredo sauce, items at A Taste of Italy are more rustic and traditional, Sims said.
This year's menu is almost built. Last year's popular soup will again be featured. An appetizer featuring stuffed portabello mushroom caps is also set. A pasta dish is also planned, which will be medium-sized half shells with greens. There will also be prosciutto chicken. The desserts will be espresso brownies and cheesecake topped with hazelnuts, baked by Frank Racioppo of the Regal Bakery.
In addition to the wine and food pairings, there will also be a number of items for auction, including jewelry, a hand-made Houston Texans poker table, wine baskets and more.
While patrons enjoy the dishes, magician Curt Miller will mingle among the crowd with table-side shows. Sponsorships are available for $200. Already, Deer Park Rotary, Bayshore Hospital and I45 Signs have secured sponsorships, Simms said.
A Taste of Italy was conceived from supporters of the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation who wanted to expand its awareness and fundraising ability aside from the annual motorcycle ride, Sims said.
Sims said she and others became involved at the urging of the late Gene Brady, who owned Pasadena Honda. He met a child at Texas Children's Hospital who was energetic and full of life. He was shocked to learn the child only had less than eight months to live.
"He talked to the parents and found out they were trying to plan the next six to eight months, including the child's funeral," she said.
Brady rallied friends and clients and before long, the PBTF became a rallying fundraiser for area riders.
"We knew we could find more people outside the biking community that want to help," said Sims. "We figured we could add to what was already being done. This was a great idea to involve new people and get new ideas and spread the word about the Foundation."
While treatment and prognosis for adults with brain tumors have improved with new research, medications and innovations, not much has been done for children, she said.
"There has been minimal research. Only one drug has been approved for children in the last 12 years," she said.
Research has found that if children receive the same radiation treatment as adults, the child patient could lose 10 IQ points, causing lasting effects should the child survive the entire ordeal.
Sims said there are 11 children diagnosed with a brain tumor every day.
A Taste of Italy is a precursor to the PBTF's biggest Houston-area fundraiser, the Ride for Kids. The 20th annual Ride for Kids motorcycle ride is April 28, emanating from the Humble Civic Center 8233 Will Clayton Parkway. Registration is $35 and includes the ride, breakfast and lunch. Registration begins at 8 a.m. and the ride starts at 10 a.m. Since 1984, the PBTF and the Ride for Kids program have raised more than $61 million. Houston riders have contributed more than $3 million of that total.
For more information about the Ride for Kids, click here.