Tropical Nights

Annual fundraising event raises $300,000 for UM-NSU CARD programs, services, and research initiatives.

Coral Gables (May 21, 2012) — Tropical Nights, the annual fundraising event for the University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (UM-NSU CARD), raised more than $300,000 for the free programs, services, and research initiatives that aid nearly 6,500 individuals with autism, their families, and the professionals who serve them.

Almost 600 supporters attended the tenth annual event, held on May 12 at the InterContinental Miami.

This year three of UM-NSU CARD’s most loyal and generous supporters were honored. The 2012 Cruz-Whitehurst Advocacy Award went to Robert and Patricia Cambó, longtime community autism advocates and CARD supporters. Diane Adreon, founding director of UM-NSU CARD, received the CARD Community Leadership Award for her 19 years of service to the South Florida autism community. Michael Alessandri, executive director of UM-NSU CARD, also received an award.

Haley Moss, a 17-year-old accomplished artist and author with autism who has worked closely with Adreon for many years, was the featured artist. Tom and Marie-Ilene Whitehurst and Ralph and Michelle Cruz, parents of children with autism spectrum disorders, chaired this year’s event.

Live music for dancing was provided by Music by Varon. Eddie Cutillas from Bacardi USA was in attendance and generously provided a full bar for the guests. Handmade treats baked locally at Lee and Marie’s Cakery were given to each attendee as appreciation gifts. The auction committee helped secure nearly 200 items for the silent and live auction, including Miami Marlins and Miami Heat packages and vacation trips to Italy and the Caribbean. A Vespa and seven-day Royal Caribbean Cruise for two to Alaska was also raffled at the event.  Kent Creative created a new UM-NSU CARD video, which was unveiled at the event.

Major sponsors and underwriters included: Value Store It; The Ruderman Family; Greenberg Traurig LLP; The Cambo Family; Andrea Travaglia of Lee and Marie’s Cakery; the Cruz Family; Bilzin, Sumberg, Baena, Price & Axelrod, LLP; the Whitehurst Family; the Labbie Family; Susan and David Samrick; the Srebnick Family; the Schomber Family; the Miami Marlins; and many more.

UM-NSU CARD is based in UM’s Department of Psychology and NSU’s Abraham S. Fischler School of Education and Human Services Programs in Speech-Language and Communication Disorders. It is a state-funded resource and support program dedicated to improving the lives of individuals with autism and related disabilities including deaf-blindness and pervasive developmental disorders.

Autism is a neurological disability that affects a person’s ability to communicate, understand language, play, and socially interact with others.

For more information about UM-NSU CARD call 1-800-9-AUTISM (extension 1) or visit For more information about Tropical Nights, visit

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From left, Michael Alessandri, Diane Adreon, and Patricia and Robert Cambó.

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