OCTOBER IS SPINA BIFIDA AWARENESS MONTH.
Writing to “The Jay Leno Show” has me reflecting on all the times I’ve stayed up late and tuned in to his program just for the hilarious monologues at the beginning. The scenario is classic, really– he provides a brief background for a current news story, and then builds it up gradually until he reaches his punch line– usually followed by a rimshot from the drummer.That’s the cheeky, irrepressible Jay Leno as we know him.
There’s also the Jay Leno that doesn’t get enough credit– the philanthropist. In 2001, he auctioned a Harley-Davidson bike signed by some of his celebrity guests and donated the proceeds to help victims of the 9/11 attacks. He again auctioned off motorcycles to benefit victims of the Indian Ocean earthquake in 2004, and also to help those affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Leno donated $100,000 in 2001 to the Feminist Majority’s campaign to stop gender apartheid in Afghanistan. He is also an avid supporter of the Lance Armstrong Foundation (for cancer), Keep Memory Alive (Alzheimer’s), and Neurofibromatosis, Inc.
On a different subject, tonight, Mom and I volunteered at a New Hope for Kids Event, their “Hold ‘Em and Roll ‘Em” casino night. It was awesome! I believe I have never felt more energized than I did today. Our job was to keep the tables as clean as possible during the event, picking up any trash as we went along. At the same time, we were permitted to enjoy the music, the food, and the drinks to our hearts’ content!
The New Hope for Kids events are really the best. They treat their volunteers so nicely! One of the guests, Ken Devine, manages 29 Panera Bread restaurants in Florida. I approached him, and he actually remembered me from another fundraising event for New Hope last year! Here’s the remarkable thing. He told me that, when I shared my story with him last time, it changed him. He said he didn’t attend the fundraiser this year for Panera. He said, “I’m here because of you; because you shared your story with me.” For perhaps the first time in my life, I was nearly speechless! Nobody in such a position has ever said anything like that to me before.
What I’ve learned through New Hope is that these functions are all about reaching out to others. People come out in hopes of meeting other people, but they probably don’t expect to see one of the “kids” who received a wish, bussing the tables! But this is what some people will do for their passions. I go to these parties because meeting successful people who care about others is food for my soul. I go because I’ve seen the looks on the faces of other children at Christmas parties who seem to get by on barely the minimum, and still look happy. Because, sometimes, I can live my often boring, trivial life during the day, and step into this whimsical, magical, and elegant, sophisticated world of charity at night. Or maybe it’s because I am every one of those kids. With this motley, diverse, eclectic crowd, I fit in perfectly, and with them, I always know exactly what to say.
It’s the fact that I’m able to step into this enchanted world once in a while that inspires me to keep doing what I’m doing. Because, somewhere out there, dressed in a sleek tuxedo, the very picture of charm, someone is spinning the roulette for a cause they believe in.
And while it’s constantly a “gamble” for me to put myself out there and hope that I’m received well, the people I’ve mingled with tonight are all people I’d be willing to bet on.