Life of the Party: Firing it up at Villa Firenze

Guests are greeted by an organ grinder and country barbecue at a summer benefit for the Children’s Hearing and Speech Center

Kelly Lovallo, Lily Talakoub, Sally Sagarese (Photo by )

What better way to usher in Summer on a sultry evening than to dust off the floral pants and fire up the grille for a Country Barbeque at Villa Firenze, the spectacular 59-room Tudor mansion that’s home to Italy’s envoy Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata.

Launched in 1959 by philanthropists John and , original owners of the $36 million estate, the tradition benefits The Children’s Hearing and Speech Center, which was also founded in 1959 and is part of Children’s National Medical Center.

Arriving guests were greeted by an organ grinder and cool Bellinis, then cocktails and hors d’oeuvres by the pool, followed by after-dinner dancing to the Eric Felten Orchestra on a tented dance floor.

Villa Firenze is a 10-acre estate in the Forest Hills neighborhood. Neighbors include Sen. and his wife , and down the street from Hillwood Estate, once home to .

The Children’s Hearing and Speech Center had its beginnings in the late 1930’s when a clinic was established at Children’s Hospital by , , M.D. for the purpose of testing and treating children with impaired hearing.

Kerry Fortune Carlson, Wendy Meckins (Photo by Ben Droz)

In the 1950’s, the program was expanded to offer diagnostic, therapy and educational services for hearing impaired children including hearing and hearing aid evaluations, lip reading lessons, auditory training and speech-language development sessions.

In 1959, the entire hearing and speech program was incorporated as a non-profit agency under the name of the Children’s Hearing and Speech Center, and was closely affiliated with Children’s Hospital, which provided it with diagnostic facilities within the Hospital.

In the 1960s, a modern two-story building was constructed near Children’s Hospital to accommodate the Center’s School, and in 1976, it merged into the organizational structure of Children’s Hospital.

In 2001, , Ph.D., an expert in the field of augmentative and alternative communication became the Center’s third Director.

“Under Sheela’s direction, the Center has increased services to its hospital inpatients, and expanded in the areas of cochlear implant evaluation and intervention, modified barium swallow assessment, dysphagia evaluation/treatment and more,” said Ian E. O’Neil, Chair of the Board. “Last year, the Center provided diagnostic and therapy services to over 10,000 children, providing them with more than 19,500 appointments yearly.”

TRUE BELIEVERS: Christopher Cannova, Charles T. Clark, Sweet and Ben Dupuy, Anderson Grennan, Christopher Jacobs, Charles Kehler, Stuart Prince, Nina Boggs, Katie Leasure, Jill Bruno, Lavinia Pitzer, Lizzy Conroy, Lucile Huber, Blair Sutton, Cameron Knight, Amy Gross, John Polis, Nels Olson, Victor Maddux, Anne Culley Wise, Cristina Richards, Shelley Rodgers, Jake Tarr, Adam Stifel, Honor Ingersoll, Burton C. Gray, Jr., Connor Faught, Natalie Longwell, Frances Stymes, Rawson Hart, Megal Gabriel, Julia Diaz, Jarrett Morrell, Richard Moroscak, Anne Brooks Rudzki.

Christian Lamanna, Julie Rienzo, Kathleen Callahan (Photo by Ben Droz)

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