One of the largest fundraisers for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation each year is the Promise Ball, an auction and gala held in cities across the nation and organized by the local chapters.
This year, San Diego’s Ball was held on April 30th, at the beautiful Bayside Hilton. I had received the invitation several weeks prior– a black tie affair? Ocean-side in Spring? “Oh, I’m so there,” I thought. That is, I thought that until I saw the rather steep ticket price– $500. Yes, it’s for charity, but, well, I’m a student, and that’s nearing 2% of my annual income. Ouch.
But, worry not– this is a recurring theme in movies, and I’m pretty sure in the end the poor, geeky girl gets all dolled up and goes to the ball after all. I asked around– any way in for those of us who support the JDRF, but can’t afford to support the JDRF with that many zeroes attached? And indeed there was: volunteering to help with the auction.
So! My first charity ball is also my first time volunteering for the JDRF. And, five hours in five inch heels aside, it was very fun; not only did I get dress up and watch the sun set over the ocean, but I had the pleasure of hanging out with a group wonderful volunteers and beautiful guests, all gathered for a single goal: to raise money for a cure for type 1 diabetes.
And raise money they did! According to Lauren Holcomb, the manager of all things Promise Ball at the San Diego JDRF chapter, the goal for the event was around $800,000. In years past, the chapter had raised as much as $1.6 million dollars at the Promise Ball, but that was in the heady age we now call a real estate bubble, in 2007. Since then, fundraising events have suffered as everyone adjusts to new economic realities, and last year’s ball raised less than half of that.
This year, the Promise Ball hit right near it’s goal at $750,000. The funds raised come from the generous attendees of the event, who bid on a bevy of items in a silent auction, followed by a live auction of a dozen or so choice items. The silent auction included everything from signed sports gear to modern art to pet care packages, and it was indeed a gorgeous layout.
But the real event of the evening was the live auction, led by the fast-talking auctioneer Jeff Stokes. A stay in a Mammoth luxury home, anyone? How about a day with the San Diego SWAT team, rappelling and shooting? Or, my personal favorite, a flight with our favorite diabetic pilot, Douglas Cairns, who was catching some sun in Southern California after his successful Polar Flight?
Unfortunately for me, but fortunately for the JDRF, though, I was way out of my league on the auction items. Yes, I would love to stay in your 34th floor Waikiki condo, Mr. and Mrs. Goodman! No, I don’t have $12,000 to spare. Or, for that matter, $16,000 for dinner at the home of Sam “the Cooking Guy” Zien, a local celebrity chef.
Am I unhappy I hadn’t a hope of participating? Heavens, no! Are you kidding me? Every time Stokes called out, “Sold!” I couldn’t help but smile. And when Zien, the Goodman family, the Winkler family, and a number of other donors doubled their offers, giving away two dinners or two trips if the second-place bidder matched the first, I couldn’t stop myself from thinking, “For me? Why, thank you!”
Because, really now, the generosity of the people in that room, and the people who put the event together, and all the wonderful people at the JDRF blows me away when I consider that they are raising money not for themselves but for people like me– type 1 diabetics, waiting for a cure. It is important to consider here how small a group we are; type 1 diabetics make up maybe 1% of the American population. And, it’s a disease that is fully survivable, thrive-able even, and often hidden. A disease that doesn’t even prevent people from having children anymore. In other words, type 1 diabetes is a national and evolutionary footnote.
So when several hundred people– some diabetics, some parents of diabetics, some friends and friends of friends of diabetics– gather to raise money for a cause so globally small but personally meaningful, I appreciate that. A lot. Because the numbers on type 1 diabetes may be unimpressive, nationally speaking, but the inconvenience for each individual diabetic is a large burden to bear.
So to everyone at the San Diego JDRF Promise Ball; to the Pediatric Diabetes Center, the Del Mar Partnership, and the Goodman family, in whose names the money was donated; and to the generous, generous people who dressed up and raised a placard in the name of a cure– thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I appreciate how much you give for people like me. May God return that and more to you, and may God make your contribution the last drop in the bucket that leads to a cure.