Marriott’s Residence Inn to hold Root Beer Float fundraiser this Saturday, August 6

Photo courtesy Marriott International

BY HOPE LEE, Alachua Chronicle Correspondent

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The international hotel company Marriott International, which originally started as a nine-seat A&W root beer stand, will be using root beer to give back to the community.

On Saturday, Aug. 6, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Marriott’s Residence Inn will host its first Root Beer Float Day fundraiser for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals at UF. Marriott International and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals have been in partnership since 1983.

Jessica Layne, the director of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals at UF, said that the Residence Inn is not only using Root Beer Float Day as an ode to Marriott’s history but also as a way to strengthen its partnership with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott owned a nine-seat root beer stand in Washington, D.C., in 1927. Together, they entered the hotel business in 1957 to become the company they are today. “Marriott has been Children’s Miracle Network’s longest-standing partner,” Layne said. “They have done so much to support Children’s Miracle Network over the years.”

Layne said the Residence Inn, along with other Marriott hotel partners, donates rooms to miracle children, has internal fundraising events like casual wear Friday, and even involves guests with fundraising events.

The hotel is opening up the event to the entire community, and guests are also more than welcome to partake in the activities that the hotel has planned. Layne said the hotel will open up its pool to the crowd to cool off from the summer heat.

The hotel and Children’s Miracle Network have also invited miracle children and their families to come out and join the festivities for the day, said Kellie Nice, director of sales at the hotel.

Bella Lopez Neira, the miracle child ambassador for the area, and her three sisters and parents will be attending the event. Bella had to undergo a double heart-lung transplant at just 14 months at Shands due to a rare lung disorder. She was one of the youngest patients Shands has ever seen and one of the youngest patients in the country to receive that transplant surgery.

“Her story really can bring anyone to tears,” Nice said. “This is why Shands and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals are so important to support.” Nice said that the little girls are very excited to have root beer floats because they love to eat ice cream.

Karina Hamilton, general manager at the Residence Inn, said that the event will run on tickets and there will be two ticket types ready for purchase: one for entering the raffle basket giveaways and one for purchasing food items and participating in the photo booth they will have on-site.

Nice said that they hit their initial $2,000 fundraising goal and will aim to exceed $3,000 after the event.

Nice also said that there are a couple of baskets valued at $1,000. For example, one of the baskets is called the “Gators Fan” basket, which contains things like a gift card to Spurrier’s, two VIP football tickets to the UF vs. USF game, and a signed visor from Coach Spurrier.

The raffle baskets the hotel is giving away are all from donations from multiple local area businesses around Gainesville. The baskets are all valued at different price points.

Hamilton said she is very grateful for all of the community involvement that these sponsors and businesses put into this event and is planning on thanking them the day of the event.

Everything from the food items to the photo booth has been donated to the hotel, Nice said.

For the root beer floats, there will be two options. One will be the premium float priced at $5 or for five tickets, which includes a beer pint from First Magnitude Brewing Company, and a root beer float for kids for $3 or for three tickets. There will also be alternative drinks or sodas available for purchase.

The Residence Inn invited other Marriott brands here and in Ocala to come and support the event as well, Hamilton said. “We’re excited to have our partners here. It will strengthen us as an industry and also raise awareness to these other hotels so maybe moving forward, they can initiate their own fundraisers and their own events with CMN as well.”

Hamilton said that they are trying to get as many people as possible from the community to come out and have fun at this family-friendly event. “We are not taking any profit from this event,” Hamilton said, “Everything is for the kids, which makes this event super special.”