Hyatt raises $15k for Gulf County Schools affecgted in Hurricane Michael


The recently opened Hyatt Place Sandestin at Grand Boulevard hosted a “Gallery Night” grand opening celebration and fundraiser. The hotel management company, Howard Hospitality, announces the new hotel, along with a multitude of community partners, raised $15,000 during the event to benefit the fine arts programs at Port St. Joe High School and Wewahitchka High School.

Hyatt Place Sandestin at Grand Boulevard was designed with local art and artists of South Walton in mind. The artwork in the hotel highlights the talent and diversity of some of Walton County’s greatest artists, including Chandler Williams, Mary Hong, Velia Lala, Linda Kernick, Raul Pardo, Amy Laurae, Alejandra Vega, and Kathleen Schumacher who all donated original works to the event’s silent auction to raise money for the two schools. Local artist Justin Gaffrey created a unique live painting during the event which was raffled off during the fundraiser.

Both Port St. Joe High School and Wewahitchka High School in Gulf County, FL were severely impacted by Hurricane Michael last October. Building damage, flooding, and temporary school closures affected both staff and students in the months following the storm. “About 15% of the students at the school were from Mexico Beach” where Hurricane Michael made landfall, said Principal Josh Dailey of Port St. Joe High School.

The hotel team made a decision before the property opened to use the platform of their Grand Opening to bring awareness to the needs of students in Gulf County in the aftermath of the storm. “Now more than ever, it is imperative that these students have access to enriching afterschool programs and arts education in their classrooms,” said Hyatt Place Sandestin General Manager Megan Suggs.

Both schools reported damage to their arts departments after the hurricane, including a loss of performance space for music and drama, loss of supplies and materials, destruction of musical instruments due to water damage, and numerous other challenges. Wewahitchka High School’s gymnasium floor, where its students performed their yearly Christmas Concert, was destroyed by water damage. Port St. Joe High School’s Culinary Arts wing had its roof lifted off in the storm. “We are past the point of needing blankets and hot meals, thankfully. Now what these kids need is something to inspire them” as the reality of their forever-changed lives sinks in, remarked Mr. Dailey.

Support in Walton County has been strong for its neighbors to the east in the months since Michael devastated Northwest Florida. “The entire community has been so generous and dedicated to the success of this event,” Ms. Suggs explained. Many retailers and restaurants in the Grand Boulevard Town Center partnered with the hotel for the event, including Cantina Laredo, Tommy Bahama Restaurant & Bar, Emeril’s Coastal Italian, Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, Wine World, UPS Store 4873, Emerald Coast Theatre Company, The Zoo Gallery, Vin’tij Food & Wine, New Vision Theatres Boulevard 10, Emerald Coast Chiropractic, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, and Black Bear Bread Company. Beyond Grand Boulevard, local friends at Bella Flora 30A, Mingle Modern Gatherings & Gifts, and 850 Events assisted with d├ęcor, and DJ30A and Sinfonia Gulf Coast provided the entertainment for the evening. Other partners included Visit South Walton who provided drinkware, and Grayton Beer, Emerald Coast Catering, Oyster Bay Wines, Cheney Brothers, for donations of food and beverage for the event. Additional event partners were Silver Sands Premium Outlets, South Walton Beaches Wine & Food Festival, Pedego 30A, 30A Songwriters Festival, Isabelle Ambrose, Petar Petrov, Calusa Nature Center & Planetarium, Sevier Distilling Company, Emerald Coast Luxury Transportation, and Chautauqua Vineyards & Winery.

Hyatt Place Sandestin at Grand Boulevard, a Howard Group development operated by local hotel management company Howard Hospitality, committed to matching up to $5,000 in donations from the event. The funds raised during the night surpassed that amount, bringing the total amount raised to $15,000 which will be divided by the two high schools. Hyatt Place Sandestin at Grand Boulevard’s relationship with these two schools won’t end with the Grand Opening celebration explained Ms. Suggs, “We are actively looking for additional ways to support [the students] and if anyone in the community is interested in partnering with us, please let us know.”

About Hyatt Place
Hyatt Place, a brand of Hyatt Hotels Corporation, combines style, innovation and 24/7 convenience to create a seamless stay with modern comforts. There are more than 312 Hyatt Place locations in Armenia, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Germany, Honduras, India, Mexico, Morocco, Nicaragua, Panama, Puerto Rico, Thailand, The Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and the United States. For more information, please visit Join the conversation on Facebook and Instagram, and tag photos with #HyattPlace and #WhySettle.

About Howard Hospitality
Based in Miramar Beach, FL, Howard Hospitality, a division of Howard Group, is an award- winning small hotel management company with big ideas. The foundation of its management style lies in three areas: guest satisfaction, employee welfare, and community involvement with the ultimate goal of making the world a better place. For more information, please visit