UNMASKED: (L-R) Chad Daughtrey, Ryan Young and Joy Winheim celebrate the fourth annual masquerade at Armature Works Aug. 4, 2018. Photo by Ryan Williams-Jent.
TAMPA | Balance Tampa Bay (BTB) and Empath Partners in Care (EPIC) have joined forces to present “Fearless: An Unmasquerade” on July 27, the fifth annual fundraiser benefiting the latter organization’s fight against HIV/AIDS.
BTB is a volunteer organization that focuses on promoting fellowship, fun and philanthropy throughout Tampa Bay. The annual masquerade ball has benefited EPIC since the event’s inception, raising more than $80,000 for the nonprofit’s essential services and programs. 2018’s gathering raised $16,000 for the nonprofit.
While BTB retained creative control over this year’s fundraiser, EPIC played a more direct role than in previous years when planning the fifth annual event. “We haven’t always had money ahead of the masquerades when we’ve needed it,” Executive Director Joy Winheim explains. “We’ve had to discount ticket sales or seek donations and sponsorships to make payments in order to put them on. We didn’t take it over but EPIC has backed the masquerade to take it to the next level.”
Masquerade Event Chair Ryan Young welcomed the collaboration. “Balance is volunteer-based, and in the years leading up to this, planning was almost like a full-time job outside of our regular full-time jobs,” he says. “We’ve loved it because the payoff has been so big, but this partnership has allowed us to focus more on the community.”
Young adds that the organizations wanted to do something a little different for this year’s theme. “We’ve always been a masquerade,” he says. “In our fifth year, we wanted people to come in and be true to who they are—whether that’s with a mask or without a mask. We’re caught in an unmasquerade.”
EPIC Special Events Coordinator Molly Robison also joined Young and Winheim in the planning process, meeting monthly with BTB. “We’re growing the existing event, putting extra energy behind it,” she says. “It’s been great to see the creative process.”
Robison adds that this year’s theme is true to EPIC’s mission. “We’re going to welcome people in to let them truly be fearless,” she says. “They can join us however they’re comfortable—if they want to wear a mask, they can wear a mask, or they don’t have to. They can wear exotic makeup or use jewels for a mask. We’re going to celebrate friendship, fun and philanthropy and do it in a rich, beautiful way.”
This year’s gathering will take place at the nearly 3,000 sq. ft. Tampa River Center, an event space with bountiful, nearby parking along the Hillsborough River’s west bank. It features floor-to-glass ceiling windows that open to a covered terrace to showcase downtown Tampa. Style House at Botanica is designing the decor and guests will enjoy an open top shelf bar along with heavy hors d’oeuvres from Catering by the Family.
“With the kind of creative genius that Balance Tampa Bay has put into this, and with the opulent and inviting decorations, it’s going to be such a cool space to come into,” Robison says. “It’s going to be really visually stunning.”
“When clients come into our agency, it’s okay for them to be who they are,” Winheim adds. “No matter what is happening, when they’re inside of our four walls, it’s a safe space. We’re taking that concept to this space.”
“Fearless: An Unmasquerade” will be held Saturday, July 27 from 8-11:59 p.m. at the Tampa River Center at Julian B. Lane Park, located at 402 W. Laurel St. Individual tickets are $90 and VIP are $150. Doors open 7 p.m. for VIP. To purchase tickets or for more information, including about sponsorship opportunities, visit MyEpic.org/Masquerade.