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Review: Samantha’s Friends hosts ‘Invasion of the Minions’ benefit event in Florida

On September 9 and 10, the “Invasion of the Minions” Samantha’s Friends event took place at Lakewood Ranch Country Club in Florida.

Alice Bozza, Sammy Lee Bozza, and Mike Manning
Alice Bozza, Sammy Lee Bozza, and Mike Manning. Photo Credit: Judith E Photography
Alice Bozza, Sammy Lee Bozza, and Mike Manning. Photo Credit: Judith E Photography

On September 9 and 10, the “Invasion of the Minions” Samantha’s Friends event took place at Lakewood Ranch Country Club in Florida.

This marked their 28th year hosting this benefit fundraiser event, which is situated in northeastern Sarasota.

Hosted by Sammy Lee Bozza, Alice Bozza, and Craig Bozza, “Invasion of the Minions” featured such actors as Eric Martsolf (“Days of Our Lives”), Kyle Lowder (“Days of Our Lives”), Jordi Vilasuso (“The Young and The Restless”), Johnny Wactor (“General Hospital”), Carson Boatman (“Days of Our Lives”), Mike Manning, Kristos Andrews (“The Bay”), Jake Jensen, Tristan Rogers (“General Hospital”), and filmmaker Gregori J. Martin (“The Bay’), as special guests.

Speaking of actors Martsolf and Boatman, they are also part of The Day Players Band. The serenaded the audience to such classic songs as Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” and Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places.”

Actor Jake Jensen also delivered a killer version of a song that he composed for the event (and namesake Sammy), as he accompanied himself on the piano.

Marine artist and painter Michelle Depaolis-Wampner also showcased her talent with her paintings at this event.

The daytime actors facilitated a trivia portion of the show (which involved “Minions” questions), raffles, and they even had live and silent auctions as part of their fundraising efforts.

A neat moment was when both actors and attendees participated in a fun “Limbo” game, where the bar kept going lower and lower each time.

It benefitted such nonprofit organizations as the Donte’s Den Foundation, Bears Who Care, Valor Service Dogs, the Play For Life Foundation, Code Red Foundation, and Boo 2 Bullying, among other 501(c)(3) organizations.

It was evident that that service dogs were the true stars of the show, and the audience couldn’t help but fall in love with all of the pets that were present.

A video montage played on a projector, which featured clips of “Samantha’s Friends” over the years as Five For Fighting’s “100 Years” played in the background.

“Our 28th year of Samantha’s Friends was a huge success and the best one yet,” Sammy Lee Bozza exclaimed. “Thanks to all our supporters, who come to donate their time and talent year after year to help this very worthwhile nonprofit charity. We had gorgeous service canines that the entire crowd went wild for. Awesome and amazing celebrities and entertainment,” she elaborated.

“My heart is so full right now, it’s going to explode,” Sammy Lee added.

Emmy winner Jordi Vilasuso remarked, “Samantha’s Friends was amazing as always, everybody feels like friends when you are here.”

“Thank you to each and every one of you to making this latest GALA a huge success,” actor Kyle Lowder said. “We are all so very grateful to all the amazing actors that came out and dedicated their time in person,” Lowder expressed. “Most of all, thank you to the fans for coming together to benefit all of these phenomenal charities.”

“I’ve been coming to the Samantha’s Friends charity event for three years now and this was hands down the best one yet. Getting to chat with the creator of the Emmy award-winning show ‘The Bay’ and the actors was surreal. ‘Samantha’s Friends’ is very dear to my heart and I can’t wait for the next one,” exclaimed Kimberly Wotton.

The Verdict

Overall, “Invasion of the Minions” was a pleasant benefit event from an entertainment, creative, and charitable standpoint. There was something in it for everybody.

It was good for the fans, the actors, special guests, and the dogs that were in attendance (with canine Levi being a perennial fan favorite).

Each time, they have different entertainment themes, which keeps the fans and actors on their feet.

Author Alice Hocker once said, “Your greatness is not what you have, but in what you give.” This quote sums up the “Invasion of the Minions” Samantha’s Friends event.

To learn more about “Samantha’s Friends,” check out the official website, and follow them on Instagram.

Markos Papadatos
Written By

Markos Papadatos is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for Music News. Papadatos is a Greek-American journalist and educator that has authored over 20,000 original articles over the past 18 years. He has interviewed some of the biggest names in music, entertainment, lifestyle, magic, and sports. He is a 16-time "Best of Long Island" winner, where for three consecutive years (2020, 2021, and 2022), he was honored as the "Best Long Island Personality" in Arts & Entertainment, an honor that has gone to Billy Joel six times.

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