Times Square had a little extra hustle and bustle on the evening of March 16, as over 850 guests and dedicated donors filled the Broadway Ballroom at the Mariott Marquis to celebrate our 32nd Annual Gala. The evening raised over $1.8 million for our programs; a truly remarkable and record breaking number.
Co-hosts Andy Adler – PIX11 Sports Anchor – and Allyson Spellman – TV Personality, author, and coach – lit up the room and encouraged guests to dig deep into their hearts and pockets as we highlighted the courage and resilience of our kids and families through our “Tales of Courage” campaign and Escapes program.
As guests enjoyed the company of colleagues, family, and friends, they had the opportunity to meet and hear the stories of Arizona, Christina, Danielle and Tyriee – the four enCourage kids featured in “Tales of Courage,” our visibility campaigned designed and produced by Geometry Global. The everyday lives of these children include heroic acts of bravery, strength and spirit and truly represent the tens of thousands of kids that are helped each year through the generous support of events like the Gala.
Having a sick child is often an incredible drain on a family’s resources, which is why there is never a cost attached to our programs. enCourage Kids father Frank Amodeo spoke to guests about the constant battles his son Nicholas, and his family, face on a daily basis, and how our Escapes program makes their lives a little easier – and with a lot more smiles.
“It’s a privilege to be part of this organization – they feel like family,” Frank shared. “The entire staff works so hard at making sure every family has a great experience at each event. A great part of attending these events is meeting and bonding with other families that are also going through many difficulties with their children. It makes you not feel so alone in your struggles.”
Recognizing the struggles of seriously ill children and their families, Peter Sotoloff, one of the evening’s honorees, discussed the importance of a happy and carefree frame of mind to promote the healing and recovery process. “By creating programs and events, both in and out of the hospital, enCourage Kids gives these kids and their loving families the hope, encouragement and healing conducive environment necessary to fight through their illness and have the best odds at a productive childhood despite the circumstances,” Peter shared with the crowd.
Over the past 27 years, American Airlines has played a significant role in allowing us to provide these crucial programs to our families. Through the American Airlines Kids in Need program, they have provided us with more than $2 million in program support. We proudly presented our annual Community Partner Award to American Airlines this year because of their unwavering support, generosity, and company-wide incentive to give to those who need it most.
Our other honoree, George Klett, spoke intently on the importance of giving. “Giving rewards the giver much more than ‘giving back,’” Klett explained. “The most gratifying reward comes when we give not because we have to, not because someone asks us to, not because we owe it, but rather out of hearts filled with gratitude.” Every guest present that evening truly showed what it means to give with a heart filled with gratitude, as reflected by the record breaking amount of funds raised.
Sticking with the theme of record breaking, Executive Director Michele Hall-Duncan and martial arts master Leif Becker announced the launch of Breaking Barriers, a world record setting event benefiting enCourage Kids and highlighting our message of courage, strength, and determination. As Leif Becker attempts to break 12,000 boards in 24 hours, we believe that each board broken represents the physical or medical challenges that sick kids live with every day. By breaking the boards, Leif represents the ability to overcome such barriers.
Our 32nd Annual Gala was a spectacular event that allowed everyone to leave the Marriot Marquis filled with love and light. The devoted support from our honorees and our incredible partners has once again raised the bar, setting a record for years to come. Thank you to all the guests for being a part of our organization and thank you to our families who inspire us every day – you are the reason why we love what we do, and why we continue change lives, one smile at a time.
To view more photos from the event, click here.
To learn more about Breaking Barriers, click here.