Following the accidental death of their 3-year-old son, Sebastian, in October 2007, Horst and Luisa Ferrero received an $850,000 settlement from Shands HealthCare. In March 2008, the Ferreros announced that they would donate as much as $1 million to match donations for patient safety programs and to build a freestanding children’s hospital at Shands that would bring pediatric services spread around campus under one roof.
After supporters held raffles, runs and other events to help raise the matching money, the Ferreros and board members decided to hold a gala event to raise the profile of the Sebastian Ferrero Foundation and its mission.
Noche de Gala quickly grew into the grandest and most elaborate event on Gainesville’s social calendar, selling out that first fall of 2008 with 720 attendees under a large tent on the grounds of Tioga Town Center. The event was moved to the 642-acre Besilu Collection horse estate near Orange Lake the following year, where it has drawn more than 900 people each year to the black-tie event — last year costing $450 to $600 per ticket — with fine dining from Embers Wood Grill and national entertainment acts under a 24,000-square-foot main tent and other tents housing bars, a charity auction and a VIP section.