News Release

Tropical Nights Gala Raises Record Amount

The University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities raised more than $400,000 at its 11th annual Tropical Nights gala, held May 11 at the InterContinental Miami. The total, which is the most ever raised in the event’s history, will support the invaluable programs and services provided by UM-NSU CARD at no cost to families.

At the gala, Tropical Nights co-chairs Steve Marin and Cristina Canales and 530 guests celebrated UM-NSU CARD’s 20 years of excellence serving the South Florida autism community.

The evening saluted the program’s growth, celebrated its milestones, and honored individuals and organizations that have helped make UM-NSU CARD a success. This year’s Tropical Nights honorees included the Miami Dolphins and Bacardi USA. Annual Community Service Awards were also presented. The first-ever CARD Champion Award was presented to State Representative Erik Fresen for his visionary leadership in supporting individuals living with autism and autism-related disabilities across Florida.

After a touching presentation highlighting UM-NSU CARD’s impact on the autism community, emcee Jay Rokeach, the voice of the Miami Hurricanes, encouraged guests to┬ábid on silent and live auction items, purchase raffle tickets, and donate to the center.

Faces in the crowd included State Representative Fresen and his wife Ethel; Miami-Dade County Commissioner Sally Heyman; Miami Beach Mayor Matty Bower; Michael Grieco, a candidate for Miami Beach commissioner; Leonidas Bachas, dean of UM’s College of Arts and Sciences; Rod Wellens, chair of UM’s Department of Psychology, and his wife Lynda; Dan Marino Foundation CEO Mary Partin; Jeff Ireland, general manager of the Miami Dolphins, and his wife Rachel; and Bacardi representative Clarissa Diaz de Villegas.

For more information on UM-NSU CARD, please call 1-800-9-AUTISM (ext. 1) or visit