Shareef and Al Malnik at The Forge   

Even success stories need a little tweaking now and then; the trick is how much. Case in point: The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Florida’s annual charity ball has been a hit since 1994, but a decade later had begun to feel just a little bit stale. So the foundation—which has been granting wishes to children with life-threatening ailments from its formation in 1983—turned to a man known for planning some of the wildest high-end soirées South Beach has ever seen: Shareef Malnik. Owner of The Forge since he took over for his father, Al, in the early ’90s, Malnik has doubled as chairman of the charity ball for the past seven years. This year, actress Gabrielle Anwar of USA Network’s Miami-based and locally shot show, Burn Notice (also, not coincidentally, Malnik’s significant other), will host the auction. Malnik, along with InterContinental Miami general manager Robert Hill and Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Florida president and CEO Norm Wedderburn, will help host the November 5 event. This year’s gala may be the party of the century—its theme, after all, is the Black and White Ball, a nod to Truman Capote’s 1966 event of the same name, which was itself hailed as the party of the century in a book of that title just a few years ago. We caught up with Malnik in his office above The Forge’s dining room, as planning for the ball reached its final stages..

How did your involvement with the ball, and with Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Florida, begin?
SHAREEF MALNIK: My dad and his wife are lifetime benefactors of the event, and we’ve all attended since its inception, so this will be number 17. Although it was always successful, it needed a reinvention, like everything needs to be reinvented eventually: Once you realize you’re sliding, it’s too late. I saw the handwriting on the wall, and agreed to do it under the condition that they would really listen to my ideas, because it was going to be different than the way it had been done for 10 years.

To what do you attribute the revamp’s success?
SM: I think it went so well because it was in collaboration with Norm and [Robert Hill] over at the InterContinental Miami, and we were all on the same page. We knew that once the demographic of the old ball was too old to go, we would need to target another, to give it a wider appeal. And we needed to invest in it. If you’re shortsighted and you want to get as much money as you can, you may be shortening the life of the very thing you’re trying to maintain. So it’s not about how much money we can make, but rather how long we can keep it going.

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