FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. (February 26, 2024) – More than just granting big wishes, the Florida-based nonprofit Little Smiles of Florida is helping families with the every day essentials. From pajamas and socks to arts and crafts, toys, electronics and more, Little Smiles is helping supplement families during their child’s most vulnerable times, providing support for over 58,000 kids last year alone according to executive director Brittany Perdigon.

On Sunday evening they received a $83,700 boost as local business Bronx House Pizza in the Hammock, led by Bruno DiFabio, Mike Bennici and Brad Beam, hosted their inaugural fundraiser to support Little Smiles. Pledging 100% of the sales to the organization, the day kicked off with brisk business and picked up steam with celebrity appearances from musician and entrepreneur Robert Van Winkle aka Vanilla Ice, and friends throughout the day.

Perdigon was surprised by the community’s abundance of support, and stayed close by 18-year-old Little Smiles recipient Jacob Hilliker and his family – dad Tommy, mom Debbi, brother Brian, and nephew Alex as they spent time with the celebrities.

“I wanted to meet him. I watch him build houses on The Vanilla Ice Project,” shared Jacob, enjoying a pop-up Vanilla Ice concert as a VIP. “I’m happy.”

Photo courtesy of Brad Beam.

The drive from Mobile, Alabama to meet Vanilla Ice, was long, but worth it according to Jacob’s parents.

“He loves Rob, he loves Vanilla Ice,” said Tommy. “He’s terminally ill, we lost him twice last month.”

Cherishing every moment with their son, the Hilliker family was grateful for the support of strangers they now count as friends.

“Little Smiles they’re putting us up in a hotel and sending him to Disney. And, we couldn’t have done this without Brad from Bronx House,” said Jacob’s dad.

Jacob Hilliker is gifted by musician Greatness. Flagler News Weekly.

Perdigon gets emotional knowing the organization she works with is helping to create memories families will always have in their hearts.

“This special kid, Jacob, reached out and said he was a Vanilla Ice fan, so his family drove over 9 hours to come here. We blessed Jacob and his family to be able to stay a couple of nights in a hotel and we’re actually going to send them to Disney World tomorrow, and they’re going to go have some fun,” she said happily.

Jacob Hilliker and Brittany Perdigon, Little Smiles. Flagler News Weekly

“I cry tears of joy. I’m blessed because these kids are facing such adversity and if we can provide somewhat of a little smile, this is all we live for,” she said.

Well past the 8 o’clock advertised end time revelers crowded the restaurant snapping photos and livestreaming their moment with the celebrity posse.

Hoping to catch up with Van Winkle, Bettyann Farmer recalled a moment decades ago at a show when the star helped her at a concert. Seeing him Sunday night brought back the positive memories.

Bettyann Farmer and comedian Christy B support the cause. Flagler News Weekly

“I met Rob a little over 20 years ago at a show in Redding, Pennsylvania where I was invited as a guest. There was a disabled man on the front row, and when Rob came out the crowd pushed forward and knocked this gentleman, his name was Lucky, down. My sister and I were trying to help Lucky up and Rob literally dropped the mic on the stage, came down personally and helped Lucky to his feet, and lifted my sister, Lucky and I back over the barricade and we hung out with him the whole night. But he didn’t have to do that. He’s a true, legit amazing human being,” she said.

Sitting down for a moment when the day was through but still in fast-forward from all the excitement, Brad Beam was astonished by the sheer magnitude of support shown by the community for the day’s effort.

Challenging the community earlier in the day via social media to help them reach $40,000 in donations, Beam and co-owner Bruno DiFabio had dared to dream of surpassing their initial goal of $30,000. Closing out the night with nearly triple what they had hoped for, it was almost as if hadn’t had time to sink in just yet.

Jacob Hilliker and Robert Van Winkle aka Vanilla Ice. Flagler News Weekly

The event evolved out of a conversation about charities between Brad and Rob, a champion for the Little Smiles organization.

“He told me and it hit me in my heart. I got two boys of my own. I felt compelled to do something,” said Brad, who credits partners DiFabio and Benneci with the 100% of the sales as a donation campaign.

“Bronx House as a whole is very big on doing charity and helping foundations and things like that,” he said.

“We really wanted to step it up as a small business, because we are a small business. We’re a mom and pop. This is how businesses should do. Even though times get tough sometimes, we still want to reach out, we still want to be able to help others, especially something like this.”

Perdigon said the tremendous fundraising amount wasn’t typical of smaller events and the support enables the organization increase their reach and services across Florida, which included a donation of toys and 250 sets of pajamas to Halifax Health’s Pediatric Unit on Monday.

The Little Smiles and Bronx House teams deliver donations to Halifax Health Pediatric Unit on Monday, February 26, 2024. Photo courtesy of Halifax Health.

“It’s not normal for an event like this. It’s normal for our bigger events we do, but not for an independent like this, so it’s absolutely incredible,” said Perdigon with appreciation. “They’ve already told us they want to make it a yearly event.”

“A portion of the funds that was raised during the event last night was already used to initiate the partnership with the pediatric unit at Halifax Health in Daytona. The remaining funds will be going toward future partnerships with different pediatric facilities that we bring on over the next couple of months,” said Luke Lostroscio, Senior Manager for Little Smiles of Florida.

For more information on Little Smiles of Florida, visit here.