Morgan Freeman Helps Raise $80,000 for ECCAC

July 11, 2012 by Susan Benton

Celebrity sightings get more and more common in SoWal, but celebs usually come to our beaches to relax and unwind, staying under the radar. Morgan Freeman came to town and he was relaxing and also helping out one of our great charities.

The recent 6th Annual Chi Chi Miguel Throwdown was comprised of many events that began with Emeril Lagasse sharing his culinary expertise at Lovelace Interiors. Wine aficionados and Sandestin residents Michael and Valerie Thompson host the Chi Chi Miguel Throwdown each year to benefit numerous local charities.

Other events included a Sip ‘n’ Shop for the ladies at participating boutiques along Scenic 30A, a golf tournament at Kelly Plantation, and the grand finale, an outdoor barbeque competition at the Thompsons’ home. Five teams competed, including guest of honor Emeril Lagasse, with celebrity judges naming the best barbeque team and guests voting a People’s Choice winner.
 Local Musician Geoff McBride singing with Morgan Freeman 

An integral part of each Throwdown is a prize bevy of unique live auction items, and this year it included a Hawaiian vacation, Napa Valley tourings and tastings, George Rodrigue art, dinner with Morgan Freeman, and more. The Throwdown hosted 125 exclusive guests who opened their hearts and their wallets to make the event a remarkable success, raising an astonishing $528,444.

 The check presentation

The dinner with Morgan Freeman went at auction for $80,000, and one hundred percent of the proceeds were directly donated to benefit the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center. Lori and Stephan Karian graciously agreed to be the hosts for the event.
In late June, forty-five guests from the local area and across the country, arrived at the home of  the Karian’s in Burnt Pine at Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. Gulf Coast celebrity chefs prepared the exclusive dinner, with the guest of honor being academy award-winning actor, Morgan Freeman.

 The Karian’s with Freeman (left) and Dan Kosta (right).

Guests enjoyed one-on-one visits with Freeman, entertainment by Geoff McBride who recently starred on NBC’s The Voice, and a 5-course wine dinner. Stinky’s Fish Camp/Blue Mountain Catering Chefs Jim Richard, Todd Misener and Brannon Janca, worked closely together with Chef David Cunningham of  V Seagrove, to create and prepare the sumptuous meal.

 Talent from Stinky’s and V Seagrove in the Karian kitchen

Wine pairings were provided by Dan Kosta, partner of Kosta Browne Winery from the Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California.  Sysco generously donated the gourmet dinner and Freeman donated his time for his appearance for the Throwdown.
Lori Karian, hostess said, “The most rewarding component of the evening is that everything benefited the needs of the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center.”
For more information about the Children’s Advocacy Center call 850.833.9237 or contact Jen Floro with extension x283 or by email You can also visit their website


Susan Benton's picture

A Gulf Coast native who now calls SoWal home, Susan spent much of her childhood traveling the world as the daughter of a Naval officer. Susan is known for her connection to area chefs, and her passion for promoting local farmers, businesses and artisans.

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