Monday, April 30, 2007

Hope Gala JDRF

Two years ago I moved from sweet home Chicago (chi-town) to beautiful foggy San Francisco. I was 18, moving to California and starting college, that meant no parents, no curfews, no rules…I was pretty certain I was on top of the world. Sooner than later I got a big reality check! I was lonely in a big city, I didn’t know anyone and had no where to go. Enter Philip Stapleton a.k.a. Phil, who has become something of a second dad to me over the last few years. Phil has been a very close friend and colleague of my father for over 30 years. As a result, he instantly gave me a job at his securities firm in the Ferry Building, Conifer Securities. Before I knew it I had a job working with amazing people who ‘took me under their wing’ so to speak. I was going on company trips to Lake Tahoe and Palm Springs and attending ritzy parties with San Francisco ‘A’ lister's.

Hence the reason I received an invite to the Hope Gala 2007, at the Fairmont Hotel atop beautiful Nob Hill where Pinot Grigio, Grey Goose, and money was flowing. More than 20 years ago Phil (and Conifer Securities) began donating an enormous amount of time and money to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) whose sole “mission is to find a cure for diabetes and its complications.” The Hope Gala is a huge fundraiser which includes a cocktail reception, silent/live auction, dinner, and dancing. All the proceeds from the gala benefit JDRF’s search for a cure.

Nancy Cook, a women who has battled with Diabetes for over 50 years, took the stage to tell her story and promote the 12th live auction item titled Find A Cure. “I think my blood sugar is low” said Cook, who then giggled nervously and leaned on the podium. A champagne glass of Orange Juice was instantly rushed to the stage as Cook went on with her speech. Although light laughter filled the room when Cook joked about her blood sugar level, there was a real sense of humanity brought out in the crowd almost like a wake up call. It wasn’t about the black-tie party at the four-star hotel anymore, it was about a real disease that real people are suffering from that everyone in the room had the chance to help (right there, right then). The Hope Gala 2007 raised nearly $500,000 in the live auction, and along with the price value on each of the 300+ seats and the money from the silent auction the night was nothing short of successful.

Philip C. Stapleton was this years recipient of the Living And Giving Award, as recognition for the dedication and generosity that Phil and Conifer Securities has given JDRF. Phil is an inspiration not only to me, but to anyone who knows him! From helping out an old friends daughter (a.k.a. me) to his commitment to the JDRF, Phil always seems to be searching for another way to ‘give back.’ Phil got involved with the JDRF when Will Wienstien, his partner and dear friend, daughter was diagnosed with the disease. Somewhere over the course of the night, between bidding, drinking, and dinner Phil told me about when Will first came to him and asked for his support regarding the foundation. “ I was a little confused…help the JDF (before it was the JDRF)…I am a good Irish Catholic kid from Brooklyn, why would I support the Jewish Defense Foundation?” explained Phil.

Dressing up, mingling with strangers, drinking and dancing till sunrise: that sounds like an amazing night. But that night becomes so much more special when the party is for a good cause, and you are surrounded by people who want to make a difference. The Hope Gala 2007 could easily be described in two words—Absolutely Fabulous!