This annual event began in 1979 as an auction held in the center of The Midway Mall, now the Mall of the Americas, where shoppers could bid on dozens of items donated by the stores and shops in the mall. The club’s members passed out flyers offering the auction and refreshments to all who attended. The auction raised more than $6,000, and the club’s president, Jim Gall, started a new career as an auctioneer.
After two more successful events at Kendale Lakes Mall, the board of directors decided to hold the auction event at a hotel along with the annual board installation dinner. After a few successful years, the board decided to attract more attendees and publicity for the event by honoring a Citizen of the Year. In 1986, the club recognized iconic South Florida television news anchor Ralph Renick, who was retiring after 35 years, as its first Citizen of the Year. The evening was a tremendous success, and the stature of that first honoree contributed greatly to the organization’s ability to obtain the cooperation of many other outstanding honorees.
The second year, Biscayne Bay Kiwanis honored Joe Robbie, the attorney and original owner of the Miami Dolphins. Next the organization honored Dolphins Coach Jimmy Johnson, broadcaster Art Carlson, and radio host Rick Shaw. After the death of the club’s founder and charter president, Michael Shores, the board voted to add his name to the award.
Since that time, many distinguished leading citizens have been honored for their outstanding contributions to the Miami-Dade community as the Michael Shores Citizen of the Year. Through the 1990’s, the event drew hundreds of attendees and became the organization’s primary fundraiser. Former Kiwanis International President Dr. Wil Blechman, former U.S. Representative Bill Lehman, Commissioner Athalie Range, and Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipients U.S. Rep. Dante Fascell, Dr. Pedro J. Greer, Jr., and Marjory Stoneman Douglass were among the honorees. Former Miami Herald Publisher David Lawrence, Jr. was honored in 2000.
Although a few of the planned recipients fell through in the early 2000’s, the auction dinners went on, raising tens of thousands of dollars for disadvantaged children. Event sponsors were secured beginning in the mid-2000’s. In 2006, the event moved to the Renaissance Ball Room in Coral Gables and 450 people attended the event honoring prominent attorney Richard Baron, the attendance record up until that point.
Also in 2006, the organization received a generous contribution from radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh. After hearing about the work of the organization and the causes it supported from past president Rick Freedman during a golf tournament, Rush donated $100,000. Over the years, Rush has made it possible to expand school programs and field trips, support families affected by drug addiction, and provide more full college scholarships by giving several other $100,000 donations, becoming Biscayne Bay’s most important benefactor.
As the gala grows, so does the organization’s ability to provide meaningful service and programs in our service area. Here is a list of previous Citizen of the Year Award recipients. These are notable and accomplished individuals, who honored us by accepting this humble Kiwanis award. Biscayne Bay Kiwanis will always be grateful for their role in its story of successes for children.