I’ve been to some pretty good fundraising events, but I was blown away by the organization and response to the Be Perfect Foundation’s second annual dinner this past Saturday at the Hafif Estate in La Verne.We missed the inaugural event in 2008, but it’s obvious that in just two years, this has quickly become a “can’t miss” affair. I’m sure the 800 people in attendance would echo that feeing.
It might be the first time I’ve been to a dinner with 800 people and it still felt intimate. I just added this slide show, so see for yourself.
The astonishing exhibition of support for Hal Hargrave, who founded the Be Perfect Foundation, and for others who have suffered spinal cord injuries is a testament to a great community. But the birth of the foundation and its remarkable progress is because of “Li’l Hal” and his drive and determination. It’s pretty hard not to be impressed with a kid who graduated from high school just two years ago and has had his life turned upside down – only to make the most of his tragic truck accident to try to make the world a better place for others with spinal cord injuries.
He’s making an impact in a big way. I hear Saturday’s event netted an incredible $250,000, matching the funds raised in 2008. The proceeds help purchase wheelchairs, ramps, equipment and therapy sessions at rehabilitation hospitals and facilities such as Casa Colina, the Claremont Club and Project Walk, which are all closely tied with the Be Perfect Foundation and where Hal and others, including locals like Brian Goodwin and Jared Andreason, go for exercise-based therapy.
I’m sure many of the people at the event were there for the social aspects (and they weren’t disappointed), but they had to be inspired by the progress being made toward stem cell treatments for SCI, as explained by Dr. Hans Keirstead from the Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center at UC Irvine. And by the therapy work that Eric Harness described is being done at Project Walk, the internationally recognized spinal cord injury recovery center in Carlsbad. After they delivered their messages, Li’l Hal talked about his experiences and how perceptions about spinal cord injuries are changing daily, both from the perspective of those with the injuries and those who are treating them. He's even adopted the slogan "Changing Perceptions Daily" for his foundation.
Many of the speakers talked about Project Walk, which was special for us, since our son Sid works there as an aid and frequently works with Hal. He says Hal is his favorite patient because he is the hardest worker. It’s truly gratifying to know Sid has the opportunity to be a part of an organization that is making such a difference. I hope he is able to continue to work there through college as he pursues his degree in kinesiology, and to have the good fortune to return to work at a place like that someday. I'm thrilled he wants to.
I’m glad Sid and his brother Sam were able to work the event Saturday, just to gain a greater appreciation for some of the tests and turns that life can take.
It was because of the Hargraves that Sid works at Project Walk, and he loves it. And it is because of the Hargrave family that the Be Perfect Foundation dinner event was again such a success, and why 800 people had a good time on Saturday. Naturally, they showed up to support an important cause, but they also showed up because Hal and Lori and their kids are good people. The entire family should be congratulated, as well as the committee members and other volunteers who made the event happen.
Beth and I went Saturday not knowing who else would be there. But it didn’t take long to see a confluence of friends from so many parts and pieces of our lives. People from different places and phases were around every corner, seemingly somehow intertwined with each other, too. Somewhat magically, they all came together to enjoy themselves and each other, as the LCR Band played deep into the night. My favorite part of the entire evening came as Beth and I rocked out alongside many longtime friends as the band jammed to “Freebird.” As I looked up, I noticed my nephew Kevin on stage singing with friends, and son Sam up front in the middle of the action – us watching him dance while he watched us…
Ah yes, some perceptions do change daily.
Here are links to the event preview story in the Claremont Courier and San Bernardino Sun/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.