Annual Willie Wonka event benefits local cancer patients

Annual Willie Wonka event benefits local cancer patients

This is a chocolate lover’s dream

Candy, chocolate, Mattheessen’s cookies, cakes, pies, brownies, fountains filled with melted chocolate… the menu at the 14th annual Michelle’s Willie Wonka Chocolate Festival taking place on Sunday, April 17 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Southernmost House is never-ending.

Raising thousands of dollars for Cancer Foundation of the Florida Keys, the event is named in part after the name synonymous with candy, Willie Wonka, and shares the title with Michelle Halpern, the founder of the event who died of cancer in 2012.

“The first year, 14 years ago, we had about 200 people and raised $2,000,” said event co-founder attorney Michael Halpern, Michelle’s late husband and co-owner of Southernmost House. “The past few years, the event has raised more than $50,000 a year for the foundation.”

For the price of a $10 ticket, kids’ (and adults’) eyes light up when they walk into Willie Wonka’s Key West house with rows and rows of delightful goodies to choose from, all donated from local restaurants and businesses for the event. “Every penny we raise goes to the charity,” Halpern said.

Fourteen years ago, Michelle with the help of Michael and their three sons, started the event to help local non-profits before the reins were handed over to Cancer Foundation of the Florida Keys. “Every year the event just keeps getting bigger and better,” said volunteer Doria Goodrich, who has been with the event since its inception.

According to Goodrich, a member of the all-volunteer Cancer Foundation of the Florida Keys, which supports patients from Key Largo to Key West, the Willie Wonka event is the biggest fundraiser of the year. “We support anywhere from 20 local patients a year with help with their cancer treatments,” she said. “No one should have to blow every penny they’ve ever made just to stay alive.”

Just in case chocolate and candy isn’t your thing — there’s pretzels, and hot dogs, and live entertainment, and a balloon man, and a beautiful view of the ocean at one of the most iconic houses in town. All the ingredients for a perfect afternoon in the Keys while supporting local cancer patients. Southernmost House is located at 1400 Duval St., Key West.

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