From  February 4, 2010

“The Feb. 4 “From Paris With Love” gala anchored by John Travolta and Kelly Preston raised more than $104,000 for local law enforcement, firefighters and college students, according to figures released last week.

The Paris-themed gala was held at Golden Ocala Country Club the day before Travolta’s current thriller, “From Paris With Love,” opened nationally. After the dinner and auction, guests who paid $300 per ticket traveled to Ocala’s Hollywood 16 movie theater for a sneak peek at the film.

At the gala, Travolta said he chose to help local law enforcement agencies, in part, because the Sheriff’s Office helped him train for his role as a tough-guy CIA agent in “From Paris With Love.” In 2008, Travolta rode with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office undercover drug and vice unit for an afternoon and a night.

Of the four movie-themed charity galas the Travoltas have hosted in Ocala, the “From Paris” event raised the most money. The second highest total is $75,000, raised in November during the family’s “Old Dogs” preview event benefitting five nonprofit agencies.

This time, the money will be divided evenly – $26,000 each – between the Marion County Sheriff’s Office Foundation, Ocala Police Department, a new detoxification program designed to help city and county firefighters plagued by toxins, and a new Central Florida Community College (CFCC) scholarship named in honor of the Travoltas’ late son, Jett.

“CFCC also received a $5,000 contribution the night of the event, which puts their total to $31,000. The state of Florida will eventually match those funds in the future for a total CFCC contribution of $62,000,” noted Christina Perez of Terry Hines & Associates, an entertainment promotions and publicity firm that worked with the Ocala event.

Ocala couple Michael and Kitty Potapow were the ones who donated the $5,000 to CFCC’s Jett Travolta Scholarship.

The $104,000 figure also does not include the $16,500 the event raised for Memories of Missing Smiles (MOMS), the community group building a five-acre memorial park honoring children who have died in the county.

MOMS was a late addition to the list of beneficiaries, but it became the event’s star in the gala’s final moments. Travolta and Preston pulled out a $10,000 check and also reserved proceeds from the live auction’s final item exclusively for MOMS.

The Sheriff’s Office Foundation, one of the gala’s benefactors, runs the programs fueled by about 1,500 local volunteers. The Sheriff’s Office funds the programs, but money from the gala will help offset that funding, said Capt. Alicia Walker with the Sheriff’s Youth and Community Services Bureau.

Ocala Police Department’s take is earmarked for youth programs, such as summer camps and youth camps, said OPD spokeswoman Sgt. Angy Scroble. She noted the “From Paris” funds also may allow OPD to start new youth programs.

“From Paris” funds also are expected to launch The Ocala Detoxification Project, a program designed to help firefighters and other uniformed personnel who are exposed to toxins on the job.

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