I was honored to Co-chair the 2013 MDA/ALS Night of Hope Gala October 18th. It was a beautiful evening to remember with 600+ guests and several high profile and inspiring speakers such as CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux and former NFL player Kevin Turner.
I served on the committee for 3 years before being asked to Co-chair. Mark Panfel was the other Co-Chair. He’s the CEO of Northside Hospital Anesthesia. His lovely wife Sallie was diagnosed with ALS last year and it’s amazing how much work he’s done already in the fight to find a cure for this horrible disease. I couldn’t have been more honored to co-chair the event with him.
Here’s why I’m writing this. Life has a very strange way of bringing things full circle. Or, if you are of the spiritual type (as I am), then you might think there’s a higher power involved in all of this.
This is a photo from an 8th grade dance I went to with Billy Cotton. Billy was a super cute guy and a few years older than me, which probably made me even crazier for him.
Billy and I only dated, or went steady, or whatever we called it back then, for a few months. But he was definitely my first big crush. Or my first little taste of (what I thought was) love.
After we broke up, we lost touch over the years. Then, when I was in my 20′s, I remember hearing Billy was sick and not doing well. I wasn’t sure what he was sick with but I later heard he had passed away from some disease I didn’t know much about. It was heartbreaking to hear. Unfortunately, I didn’t attend Billy’s funeral.
Fast forward to earlier this year when Billy’s sister, Sandi, reached out to me on Facebook. She told me Billy had died from ALS. He was diagnosed at 28 and fought a good fight until he passed away at 36. How sad for him and his family. Perhaps this is why I have been on this mission to help in the fight against ALS. I wish I had been there for Billy at the time.
To add to these deep and profound feelings, one of my best friend’s mother-in-law has recently been diagnosed with ALS. Joan Babul and her family sat at our table the night of the gala. It was so wonderful to spend quality time with them and watch her enjoy her family so much. She looked beautiful and I truly believe she found hope that night. Hope that she can live her best with ALS.
After raising $828,000 (yay!) the night of the gala, I reached out to Sandi (Billy’s sister) to let her know how well the event turned out and how often I thought of Billy. Of course, I didn’t want to make her sad by bringing up his name, and that wasn’t the case at all. She told me she was so glad I had asked about him because she never wants him to be forgotten. She told me how she was 6 years old when he was born and she always felt she had her real, live baby doll at home.
When I was first asked by Sheri Hofer to simply make a donation for the Night of Hope silent auction several years ago, I had no idea where it would lead me. But then again, that’s life. None of us can be sure of what’s next.
I’m so thankful for the wonderful people who I’ve gotten to know through this organization. I wish I had a magic wand to make ALS disappear forever. Until then, we will keep working to help find a cure.