Sure. We’ve all been to fundraisers. But have you ever been to one with a $3,000 per plate price tag? Staggering, isn’t it?
On Saturday night I had the pleasure of attending the David Foster Foundation (DFF) Miracle Gala at Ryerson University’s Mattamy Athletic Centre (old Maple Leaf Gardens) in downtown Toronto. Foster is a Canadian musician, producer, songwriter and composer, winner of 16 Grammy Awards and co-writer of the Oscar-nominated “Glory of Love” from The Karate Kid, sung by Peter Cetera. His foundation supports families with children in need of organ transplant.
When my fiancé B told me about the event, which he was invited to through work, he mentioned the price per plate, I squealed in shock, then he pulled out his BlackBerry. “Maybe it’s $3,000 per table. No, it’s $3,000 per plate, $30,000 per table.”
Wow. Then, I went immediately to the concerns of my gender. What to wear? The hair? Make-up? Everything must be perfect.
Wait a sec. Why is it that when a thing has a big dollar value it changes our attitude about it? About ourselves?
“I must admit,” I told B the night before, “I’m feeling a bit intimidated about this event.”
“Just be yourself,” he said. Easy for him to say. He’s chatted and rubbed shoulders with so many greats – Robert Plant, Bob Seger, Sheryl Crow, Janet Jackson, to name a few. And Diana Krall was so thrilled with the gift his staff presented to her – Build-A-Bear gift certificates for her twin boys, who were 2 at the time – she laid a bear hug on him, which is rare for a celebrity.
Right after B reminded me to be myself (whoever that is!) he said the obvious, “It isn’t about you anyway.” Truth. Don’t you find that always takes the pressure off? You can apply this to absolutely any situation in life, can’t you? Even when I was doing my speech on Resilience for momondays London in front of 400 people, it wasn’t about me. It was about the message.
So I made this decision: have fun.
My journalistic tendencies kicked in as B and I scurried up the purple – not red – carpet that night. Our ears eagerly received Stevie Wonder’s Superstition – he was doing sound check – and my eyes took in the elegant transformation of the arena – flowers, ice sculptures, white chaises with purple throw pillows. I looked around at the other attendees, each of us equalized by the “black tie” label, and guess what I was reminded of? Money does not define us. Our humanity does.
At about that time I was introduced to the wife of the president of the university. I’d noted her earlier – she was wearing a stunning black lace dress with a faux fur shawl – and she is a stunning-looking woman. But you know what her most stunning feature is? Her smile. And that’s totally free, right?
I watched in fascination as an army of wait staff threaded through the purple haze below to place plates with what was termed a “Harmony of Fall’s Harvest” at each of 900 place settings. As you’d expect, it takes a while for that many people to be seated, and then there were ceremonial proceedings, like the RCMP ushering in dignitaries, like Premier Wynne and Former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.
But beyond the pomp and black tie and celebrity are families in need. On the big screens we were introduced to the Dickson family and their transplant journey. A son, Felix, born with a liver condition required a liver transplant after several years of dealing with his condition. The donor? His father Chad. And then? The unimaginable. A daughter, Cora, born in 2012, would need a kidney transplant. The donor? You guessed it. Her father Chad. From hero to super-hero, as mother Sharlene pointed out.
They were sitting just a couple of tables over. I’d already spotted bubbly wee Cora in a brilliant blue dress, blonde hair in bouncy pigtails. “She never lost her smile or her life-affirming gift of love that she imparts to everyone she meets,” says Chad of Cora who is now four months out of surgery.
B and I watched, astounded, as the David Foster Foundation – almost as quickly and easily as snapping one’s fingers – raised $6.5 million. The foundation has come a long way in 28 years. Says Foster, “Our first fundraiser . . . we raised $149,000 and I think we spent $140,000. We were new at it and we didn’t quite know what we were doing but now the goal, of course, is to net millions . . . all to benefit the families.”
It is hard enough managing a healthy household, but can you imagine, besides the emotional chaos, the monetary chaos a family is plunged into when a child is gravely ill? And then, what if a parent is the organ donor?
Of course, we all can’t afford to attend such an event, or even provide the sponsorship Foster was eliciting that night – $10,000 = Sponsor for 1 family for one year. (A young boy in a tux, who runs a lemonade stand, got up and sponsored a family. His business must be doing very well!) As a charitable organization, DFF provides tax receipts for any amount.
There is a non-monetary way, though, in which we all can help families with children in need of organ transplants. Talk to your family and tell them your wishes about organ donation. Go online, to www.davidfosterfoundation.com, click on “BE AN ORGAN DONOR” and follow the instructions for registration, in the U.S., or by province in Canada.
My nephew Roy’s parents were aware of his organ donation wishes. In August of 2007, Roy was involved in a serious car accident from which he would not recover. His eye cornea, kidneys and bone marrow were successfully transplanted into waiting recipients. While it does not dilute the pain of his loss, it does inject a spark among family members, knowing that he helped others and he lives on in this way.
The gift of life is so precious it lies outside the realm of monetary value. Let’s do what we can, both while we’re here and as we’re departing, to ease the burden of families with children in need.