The scene was set- Lights on the stage, a beautiful ballroom filled with gorgeously clad
guests, shimmering centerpieces – and three beautiful, giggly campers in the
spotlight talking about the true meaning of camp for kids with arthritis.
Nobody makes fun of you. People understand. You get to be what you want to be
and do great things, and arthritis is in the shadows…. Because you don’t have
to spend time hiding it, explaining it, or excusing it. Freedom to have total
On Monday night, we had the privilege once again to speak at the Commitment to
a Cure Gala in Los Angeles. It was held at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel – which
to me, will always be the “Pretty Woman” hotel. It’s a pretty splashy
locale….right at the corner of Wilshire and Rodeo Drive.
It’s always a treat for us to go to an event of that magnitude…. And the timing
is perfect as it helped get our minds off of Caitlin’s upcoming hip replacement
surgery. But it was especially exciting that night because two of the honorees
were Terry and Debi Fator. We met Debi in Washington DC at Advocacy Summit this
year – and I learned her story of struggling with RA for years in silence,
because she didn’t think her hard-working class folks would believe her. She
even wondered herself if she was a hypochondriac. When she finally was
diagnosed and moved into public with RA, she had years and years of failed
treatments, pain, disability, depression – and often didn’t have the money to
pay for the medications that offered the most promise for control. Her family,
especially her brother Teri – dreamed of having the means to be able to help
In 2007, Debi’s brother got part of his wish, when he became the winner of
America’s Got Talent. He’s now a successful headliner at the Mirage in Las
Vegas. Since that moment, he has done whatever he could to help Debi…. But
ironically, even paying for the treatments has not meant an immediate respite
for his beloved sister. So, he does what he can to build awareness and support
research by working for the Arthritis Foundation – hosting several special
fundraising performances of his famous show, speaking at events, and lending
his name whenever possible.The good news is that Debi has, through the AF, been
connected with new doctors and different treatment options, that seem to be
bringing her back from the truly devastating pain of the last several years.
But there is still a long way to go, which is why she is such a passionate
advocate and speaker. (She rocks.)
As part of the Gala, Terry did a 25 minute set featuring some of his characters
from his Vegas show. For my kids, it was a real thrill to see Terry perform in
person. If you have never seen him in action, you can check out a clip here:
There are tons of clips on you-tube and he also has a web site….
But I digress. Terry and Debi were tremendous…. As was the very deserving Dr.
Firestein, a renowned researcher and rheumatologist who was also honored that
evening….We also had the honor of having Matt Iseman as the emcee (Not only did
Matt keep the evening funny, uplifting, and moving at an excellent pace – but
he stayed backstage to watch the girls speak and to be the first the
congratulate them when they walked off. He treated them like queens….)
But the real stars of the evening – were the three little divas who took the
stage and asked folks to dig deep into their hearts and pockets to send folks
to our Camp Esperanza. They were poised, and mature and honest. They were brave
and they were also fun. And when they were done speaking and the hands went up
in the air, over $100 thousand dollars was raised to give kids with arthritis
the gift of camp. Pretty remarkable! I can’t even find the right words to thank
all of those donors – some of them gave $10K thousand and $20K alone! They
really will be touching kids’ lives with their generosity….
But I must extend very special thank you to my remarkable Gala Girls – Mikayla,
Alexa and Caitlin… I love you.