Wednesday night marked the 14th annual Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation Check Presentation Ceremony. 16 local organizations were presented their portion of $3 million.

DESTIN — A local charity doled out $3 million Wednesday night to help struggling kids across the Emerald Coast.

Gratitude filled the air of the 14th annual Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation Check Presentation Ceremony as 16 organizations were presented their portion of the total pot. The event took place at the Henderson Beach Resort & Spa.

"It's an amazing thing," said John Russell, president of Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation. "The organizations that we support have such powerful missions that they'll tug at your heart strings."

Russelll added that the foundation has grown exponentially since it stepped on the scene in 2006, when it awarded $60,000. He credited DCWAF's standing as the fourth largest charity wine auction in the country to the support of a tightly knit community.

"We just kept growing and growing, and the bigger we got and the more publicity we got, it was like a magnet that started pulling people toward us," said Russell, who added that the donations help organizations "focus on their primary mission of helping kids."

For one officials of a group on the receiving end, the yearly contributions are essential in continuing to help kids stay out of jail.

"It's a blessing," said Audra Ray, executive director for AMIKids Emerald Coast. "The return is so good that whatever they (DSWAF) ask in our partnership, we do. ... It has changed our organization."

Ray said that on average, the kids — between the ages of 12-20 — who benefit from AMIKids have been arrested five times. After leaving the organization, 79% of them never end up behind bars again, she added.

"Our kids, who have been breaking the law, being young criminals, can get their GED or their high school diploma ... learn a skill, get a job and become a taxpayer," Ray said.

Jeff Garrard, chair elect of this year's auction, said that DCWAF works to create a community between the different benefiting organizations — something he believes sets the foundation apart from other charities.

Looking ahead, he planned for the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation to continue to expand its footprint.

"People want to give when you have a good cause," Garrard said. "We really give them a conduit to get together and do it. ... When you can create an atmosphere where people want to come together, and you've got a worthy cause ... it creates something special."