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Delicious Destinations Co-Chairs Share Why They Support the Foundation

July 26, 2021

Health care is more than a profession for Ascension St. Vincent’s cardiologists Dr. Samer Garas and Dr. Saumil Oza – it’s a passion and a true calling. That’s why the physicians are co-chairing the Ascension St. Vincent’s Foundation’s 20th anniversary Delicious Destinations fundraiser in partnership with their wives, Dr. Nina Garas and Mrs. Neetal S. Oza.

The couples recently came together at Ascension St. Vincent’s Riverside’s Delores Barr Weaver Heart Pavilion to discuss why the Foundation’s mission is so meaningful to them as well as how the proceeds from Delicious Destinations will make a significant impact for our community’s underserved and underinsured.

Dr. Samer Garas said his family has been involved with Ascension St. Vincent’s Foundation since they moved to Jacksonville about 20 years ago.

“The Ascension St. Vincent’s Foundation provides amazing services to those people that need them and are unable to get medical support otherwise,” he said. “The Foundation’s community outreach programs are extra special because they reach out to people who aren’t even seeking healthcare because they’re either afraid to come and get help or because they don’t have the money.”

Dr. Oza echoed these sentiments, adding that the Foundation’s Mobile Health Outreach Ministry specifically reaches across all parts of Jacksonville and Northeast Florida.

“There are very few medical programs like this that can actually help people get back on their feet, get healthy, and improve their lives,” Dr. Oza said. “Our goal is to intervene as soon as possible for those who are struggling to control medical conditions that could spiral if not treated quickly and managed properly. In fact, we often find that those we serve aren’t aware of serious conditions, such diabetes or high cholesterol, until our team diagnoses them.”

Mrs. Oza recalled a time she volunteered for the Medical Mission at Home event that particularly moved her and solidified her commitment to supporting the Foundation and its mission.

“I washed the feet of people who were homeless at the outreach event. I washed their feet, cleaned them, talked to them, heard where they lived and how they survived,” she said. “I saw what kind of shoes they were wearing when they walked in – some had holes, others were far too tight. Giving them a clean pair of socks and shoes meant the world to them.”

Dr. Nina Garas said this year’s Delicious Destinations will ensure the Foundation receives critical support for outreach programs like these, all while attendees enjoy delectable culinary creations and exquisite wines from Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits.

“The theme of this year’s event is the Spice Route, and it’s symbolic of cultural globalization,” she said. “The Spice Route led to the spread of Eastern spices to the Western world, resulting in more flavorful cuisine. Over the past year, people have not been able to travel, so we thought this theme would be a nice way to bring all these cultures, flavors, and foods to our own home.”

The couples are all looking forward to hosting the milestone Delicious Destinations, presented by Miller Electric Company, at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club on Jan. 14 and 15. Chef Tom Gray, owner and executive chef of Prati Italia and Town Hall Restaurants, will serve as the celebrity chef for the event. He will be joined by 12 chefs from the region who will present dishes celebrating the “East Meets West” evening.

Virginia Hall, president and chief development officer at Ascension St. Vincent’s Foundation, said the event has historically raised over $300,000 each year for the nonprofit.

“It has been incredible working with the event co-chairs to really elevate Delicious Destinations for our 20th anniversary of the event,” Hall said. “We have been moved by their passion for our Mission, and we all can’t wait to present this beloved event in person again this year.”

Click here to learn more about Delicious Destinations, register for tickets, sponsor the event, or donate to the silent auction.  

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