Love was in the air for more than 400 guests at Wings of Hope’s 15th annual Hope is Where the Heart is gala on Feb. 11 at The Chase Park Plaza. The evening boasted record attendance and raised significant funds to support our Medical Relief & Air Transport Program.
Kudos and gratitude to gala chairs Jack and Crista Taylor and Jim and Diane Moffat. Many thanks also to Mike Calcagno, Melanie Halley and the dinner auction council, as well as the more than 80 volunteers who worked to make this year’s gala a resounding success. A special shout out to the 26 Young Ambassadors of Wings of Hope and Saint Louis University students who stepped up to volunteer in a number of roles.
Board Vice-Chairman Fred Meyland-Smith congratulated presenting sponsor Fabick Cat on its 100-year anniversary, noting that this places Fabick in the rarified company of less than 1 percent of U.S. businesses who achieve this milestone. He then recognized the Fabick family, who made a strong showing by filling two tables, including Jere Fabick, president of Fabick Cat and grandson of Wings of Hope founder, Joe Fabick. Mary Jean Russell, one-time director of development for Wings of Hope and niece of Wings of Hope founder, Paul Rodgers, was also on hand.
Guests were visibly moved as patients took the stage to share their stories of how Wings of Hope has made their journeys back to health possible. The families of two baby boys with clubfeet talked about how Wings of Hope made it possible for their sons to be treated by St. Louis Children’s Dr. Matthew Dobbs, a nationally renowned expert on the Ponseti method of treating clubfeet. Emilee Williams, a young woman who brought the crowd to tears at last year’s gala when she got out of her wheelchair to dance with her dad, returned to update guests on her ongoing recovery from Wilson’s disease. Williams and her sister then presented Meyland-Smith with a check for $750 – part of the proceeds from a walk they organized last fall to raise funds for research into a cure for Wilson’s disease. Finally, Jonathan Raskas and his daughter, Jasmine, shared their gratitude for Wings of Hope’s role in transporting Jasmine to the Mayo Clinic for treatment of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. Jonathan talked about his unique perspective as a former MAT pilot – who had flown dozens of patients in Wings of Hope’s planes – riding as a passenger with his daughter on her flight to treatment.
The evening kicked off with a cocktail hour, followed by dinner, silent and live auctions — emceed by Todd Morgan, former St. Louis radio personality — and dancing to the music of Mirage.