Mr. Pacino’s Tremendous Gift

I must admit.. I always get a tad jealous when I see the stars line up wearing their pink and red ribbons.  Nothing against all of the other extremely worthy causes of the world…. So many people’s lives have been improved because one sister promised another dying of breast cancer that she would never stop fighting for a cure.  Certainly celebrities have brought attention to many dark corners of the world that need help and have used their voices to bring about incredible improvement.  They make a tangible impact where their passion lies – in mosquito netting to prevent malaria, in schools for girls in Africa, in food for famine regions, in research for diseases.  When a star points the spotlight on something, things really happen.

I see how much coverage those stories get and wistfully wonder – Where are the celebrities affected by arthritis?  With 46 million Americans, including 300,000 children struggling, it’s statistically impossible that nobody who regularly walks the red carpet has felt the impact of this disease.  Where are those voices that will grab the sound bites for us?  Is nobody willing to attach their fame to our cause, to use their impact for our mission?  Please understand that I am extremely grateful for Evander Holyfield, Mary Lou Retton,  Meredith Boyd… and every other celebrity that has taken the time to support a better future for people with arthritis. There are many, many more that have generously supported the mission.  I just wonder sometimes, with SO many people affected, why more people aren’t stepping forward….

This last Saturday evening, my family had the honor and privilege of attending the Commitment to a Cure Gala in Los Angeles.  This was a very big deal for us.  As I like to say, my circles tend to be a little more along the lines of garage sales and lemonade stands for fundraising (equally important work, you know!)  The Gala was like attending Cinderella’s ball, with a chance for us to get dressed up.   It was a gorgeous event, filled with gorgeous people… and just as I was left breathless at the sights, I was floored by the generosity shown by the guests.  Caitlin was given the opportunity to speak about Camp Esperanza, our local summer camp for children with arthritis.  While we waited backstage, they showed a video that has been produced about Caitlin’s experiences and surgery this past summer.  Caitlin has not seen this video… so she listened to her I-pod while we waited.  When we came out on stage, she was given a standing ovation.  She flicked me in the arm when she saw my tears…. But they were tears of joy, and pride… and I am entitled.  Caitlin said a few words about camp (I think she did a great job, but I’m the mom) and they did a live auction for people to donate. The tears dissolved into more tears of gratitude and people then gave HUGE amounts of money to support the camp.  I tried to count all the paddles and add the money up in my head…. And I believe it was about one hundred thousand dollars!  I’m not sure who all of those people were, but I am so humbled and grateful for their generosity. 

So…. Speaking of being humbled and grateful…. One of the honorees of the evening was Mr. Al Pacino.  That was a gift unto itself…..

Now, it’s not as if Mr. Pacino and I hung out at the bar chatting the evening away. …. As a matter of fact, I never spoke to him or even got near him.  Caitlin had her photo with him, but Mom and Dad stayed far back.  Because even without meeting the man, I sense that being a “celebrity” is not an appealing notion.  He is an artist for sure – an actor of film and stage, a director of film and stage, a mentor, a producer.  But I don’t think he’s hanging around the hot spots on Rodeo trying to get the paparazzi to snap him.  If anything, he seems to fiercely guard his privacy.  I mean, when was the last time you saw an interview with him, or saw something about him in a magazine that wasn’t directly tied to a recent project?  While some of our younger Hollywood people are craving fame, and twittering away to fans, and stepping blissfully into the spotlight… Mr. Pacino, I believe, would just like to be left alone to do his work without nonsense.  Can you imagine what it would be like to live with that notoriety?  To have people waiting to take your picture should you dare to go out in the morning to walk the dog or pick up a paper?  I can’t say I blame him one bit.

That is why it was such a tremendous gift for him to do what he did.  Not only did he agree to receive the award, but he accepted it in person, and graciously greeted most of the guests who had paid dearly for the opportunity to be at the event AND did press interviews where he spoke candidly and passionately about arthritis.  The award, by the way, was for Mr. Pacino’s history of charitable giving, most of which he has done anonymously….and when he accepted it, he shared his thoughts on the insidiousness of the disease, and his frustrations that more people don’t know how bad it can be, particularly for children.  At this Cinderella’s ball, I have to say that Mr. Pacino was the night in shining armor, out to fight the battle of JIA!

One of the definitions of the word sacrifice is “Forfeiture of something of high value in exchange for something deemed to be of greater value or claim.”  Mr. Pacino’s gift was a sacrifice of his own well-guarded privacy in exchange for the awareness his voice will bring to the cause.  On Monday evening, two of our local news broadcasts aired a story that was over ten minutes long.  The story might be picked up by national affiliates as well.  That is HUGE!!!! I know that our local AF staff try desperately and continuously to get coverage for the cause….But this victory was of a new dimension.  The story is still on the news web page here:

http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2009/11/16/al-pacino-honored-by-arthritis-foundation/

I don’t believe that anybody at that Gala, including Mr. Pacino, is more important than you, me, or anybody else.  Nor do I believe that the other honoree, the venerable Dr. Gary Holland, is any less deserving of my praise! The people they love do not suffer greater, nor is the loss caused by arthritis any worse. But…. They do come from different means, and have different resources.  I work really hard to raise money for the AF through walk each year… and I do it with the resources available to me.  I am so grateful that they are choosing to direct their resources our direction, and help us pull the spotlight onto arthritis.

I am especially thankful for Mr. Pacino, whose voice will hopefully bring more awareness, more resources, more support.  As he said that evening, if one more person donates, if one more person understands, it will have been worth it!

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