Every morning, 4-year-old Skai Coughlan is fitted with a high-frequency chest-wall oscillation vest and a mask is placed over her mouth. The vest vibrates to shake the mucus free from her airways, so it's easier for the little girl to cough the mucus up. The mask pumps in a steroid concoction aimed in part to prevent her airways from becoming inflamed while her chest is being shaken. Skai sits in a high chair as she undergoes this treatment twice every day – at 6 a.m. every morning, and at 6 p.m. every evening. She needs to do so because she suffers from cystic fibrosis, a genetic defect that, among other things, causes a potentially fatal build-up of mucus in the lungs.
Michelle Clewer, the owner of the Grind House Bar and Grill in Clearwater, became acquainted with Coughlan because Clewer's daughter, who's slightly older than Skai, went to pre-school with Skai before Skai was pulled from the program because of her health. Clewer noticed a few things, like the fact Skai couldn't play with other children because the exposure to other children's bacteria could land her in the hospital. "This is an evil disease," Clewer said. She decided to do something about it.
On March 31, there will be a fund-raising event at the Grind House Bar and Grill, which is located at 1500 McMullen Booth Road, in the Bayside Bridge Plaza, next to a Publix supermarket. The proceeds will go to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, which is searching for a cure. There was a time when children who suffered from cystic fibrosis didn't make it to elementary school; now many make it to their 30s. But their lives are difficult. Just ask Skai.
At the fundraiser, which lasts from 7 to 11 p.m., there will be Budweiser and vodka girls coming in with free bottles, there will be raffles, there will be auctions. Gift cards to places like TGIF and Smoky Bones are among the prizes, as well as a year-long membership at a health club, and a Tampa Bay Lightning hockey stick signed by No. 16, Teddy Purcell. Clewer has gone around the plaza in which the Grind House Bar and Grill is located, and solicited some gifts for the event. This will be the second time Clewer has put together a benefit for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in Skai's name. Last year the pub raised roughly $5,000, and Clewer said this one is more elaborate so perhaps more will be raised.
Whatever one gives is tax exempt. Skai's mother, Mary Coughlan, who is partnering with Clewer for the fundraiser, has a letter from the IRS to prove it. The two women also have the blessing of the foundation itself, having been named volunteer ambassadors for the organization. They've got all their bases covered for an event that's sure to raise money for a good cause.
Chef Al Notaro of Rescue Me at Skinny's is grateful.
His son, Keoki, was born six weeks premature. The infant had a slow heart rate and trouble breathing. If it weren't for All Children's Hospital, God knows what would have happened to the little boy. Now six months old, it looks like Keoki is going to be OK.
To express his appreciation, Notaro, who runs the restaurant's kitchen at Skinnys Bar & Grill, and Maria Little Bear, Notaro's significant other and the boy's mother, have arranged a special benefit this Saturday (March 24) at the popular Hudson establishment. The All Children's Hospital Guild Pasco Branch is also helping sponsor the event.
All parties involved hope this will be the first of many fundraisers at Skinnys, to be held once a year, to benefit the children's hospital.
As a flyer for the event states, the benefit for All Children's will start at noon at the bar and grill, which is located at 13228 U.S. 19 N. And it will take place come rain or shine. There will be activities for adults and children alike. For instance, for the kids there'll be a bounce house, face painting and a man who can make just about anything out of balloons.
For the adults, there'll be live bands, Chef Al's barbeque buffet, and a wing-eating contest at 630 p.m. If the parking lot gets full, there will be shuttles to and from nearby lots.
To raise money there will be, among other things, a silent auction.
The inspirational movie "Rudy" is about a pint-sized dynamo who fulfills his dreams, despite the odds, of playing football for Notre Dame. We hope that turns out to be Keoki's fate, too.
So come out, have a good time and support a worthy cause -- all at the same time. Tickets are $20 at the door, $15 if you buy them in advance. The prices covers the buffet and free drinks. Children 14 and under are free.
Okay, fellas. We'd really like to keep you out of the dog house by making some Valentine's Day recommendations. You know, tell you about some nice, quaint, intimate restaurant where you and your signficant other can make goo-goo eyes at each other, wine glasses in hand, at a table adorned with a white table cloth and some candles. (Maybe we could even tell you which of those restaurants are having Valentine's Day specials). Here's the thing. It's not that those restaurants don't exist. It's just that men with a helluva lot more foresight than you have already laid claim to a lot of those reservations. Here's where you stand.
Armani's, at the Grand Hyatt, at 2900 Bayport Drive, in Tampa, happens to have a Valentine's Day special -- $96 per person for one of their multi-course scrumptious meals. The thing is, so many folks have snatched up reservations that the only availability is at 5 p.m. That was as of Monday afternoon. So, make a call. Looks like you'll have to take the afternoon off.
Bern's Steakhouse, at 1208 South Howard Ave., doesn't have any Valentine's Day specials. It doesn't have to. It's BERN'S for heaven's sake. We recommend you do what the restaurant recommends you do: Go to www.bernssteakhouse.com and make an online reservation no later than 72 hours before you plan to dine. Actually, we recommend you make that reservation NOW.
Do you remember a place called Castaway's, at 7720 W. Courtney Campbell Parkway, in Tampa.. We do. We wanted to recommend it. Trouble is, it's closed. Now it's called Whiskey Joe's Bar and Grill. There are no Valentine's Day specials. But you can't beat the view.
Now, the Melting Pot in Tampa, at 13164 N. Dale Mabry Highway, in Tampa, has its head on straight. On Valentine's Day, the restaurant has a special involving special cheeses and chocolates for $125 a couple. It's proven popular. As of Monday afternoon, the only spots available were at 3 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. But on Feb. 11, 12, and 13, a couple can get pretty much the same thing for $99 a couple.
The Ceviche's in Tampa, the one that recently moved into 2500 W. Azeele St., doesn't have any Valentine's Day specials. But that hasn't stopped men from reserving so many spots the only ones available as of Monday were at 5:30 and 9:30 p.m.
Partial to Six Tables, at 4267 Henderson Blvd., in Tampa? With its hours-long dining experience, we could see why you would be. As of Monday, according to its website, there were some openings on Feb. 10, 11, 13 and 14. But none on the 15th -- it's completely full. Check out their website at www.sixtablestampa.com.
At Bernini of Ybor, 1702 East Seventh Ave., in Tampa, the chef may or may not decide on some last-minute specials. As of Monday afternoon, he had not made up his mind. But the restaurant wants to let you know all pasta and dinner entrees are half price from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. And there'll be some special martinis.
Donatello, at 232 N. Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa, has its regular delicious menu, plus a special Valentine's Day menu, the details to which were unavailable. As of Thursday morning, however, there were only slots open for 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.
At the Toasted Pheasant, at 14445 N. Dale Mabry Highway in Carrollwood, there's a Valentine's Day special that runs from Feb. 11 through Valentine's Day -- a three-course meal with a bottle of champagne for $45 per person. But as of Thursday morning, reservations were filling up fast, with only some late night spots available.
Mise En Place at 442 W. Kennedy Blvd., Suite 110, Tampa, has a Valentine's Day special -- a three-course meal that costs $70 per person. But you'll have to be patient. There is already a waiting list of about 20 people.
Valentine's Day is actually the busiest of the year at Bella's Italian Cafe, 1413 S. Howard Ave., in Tampa. There's usually a special, but as of Thursday morning the managers hadn't decided what it's going to be. Bella's isn't taking reservations -- it's first come, first serve. So if you've waited too long to make a reservation -- and your significant other has the patience of a saint, not minding whether she has to wait to get the special meal -- this could be for you.
At Bella Brava, at 204 Beach Drive N.E., there were still some tables available as of late Thursday morning -- 5:30 p.m., 5:45 p.m., and 6 p.m., but none after that until about 9:15 p.m.