Bobby Bostic, who recently ran the North Pole Marathon as a fundraiser for CFA, invited me to sit at the table he sponsored at the Challenged Athletes Foundation Celebration of Heroes, Heart and Hope benefit. I accepted not only for the opportunity to attend this amazing event, but also to meet him in person, finally, after exchanging comments and messages on-line for a while now.
The event started with a cocktail reception and silent auction at 6. I arrived at the Waldorf-Astoria to find crowds of people running up Park Avenue and clouds of smoke billowing out from behind the MetLife building. People were saying that a bomb had gone off in Grand Central, so I called my parents and had them check the news. It took about 5 minutes before the news broke, but the report was that a transformer had exploded and that terrorism was not suspected. So, I changed my shoes (to put on heels) and went inside.
At check-in, people were nervous and talking about the explosion, so I passed on the information I had, collected my bid number, and wandered into the reception (after being rerouted from the VIP recepetion, which I mistakenly tried to enter - I guess I didn't look fabulous enough). There were some very nice items up for bid (see the catalog here: http://www.challengedathletes.org/ (the link to the pdf is in the middle of the left-side of the page), but I was already out-bid by the time I got to the items I wanted. I sipped some Pellegrino and then wandered out to the restroom. Where I discovered not one, but two major ladders in my hose! On Abby's very good advice, I decided not to ignore it and left the hotel to get a new pair of hose. I left the hotel on Lexington to find a drug store and found avenue traffic at a stand-still. Well, to be accurate, there were no cars at all. North/south traffic had been stopped (cross-town traffic continued, presumably to get the cars out of the area) and the road was full of people looking downtown at the aftermath of the explosion. I called my parents again and learned that it was now being reported (accurately) as a steampipe explosion. I rushed uptown, got the new hose, rushed back and barely made it in time to sit for dinner.
The tables were laid-out beautifully and the appetizer was already available. I found my table and met Bobby and a few others at the table. The waiters informed us that it was time to tuck in (I'm paraphrasing) and then Sarah Reinertsen joined us, sitting between Bobby and me. I'm sure many of you know what a strong athlete she is, but I'm happy to tell you that she is also a very nice person - sincere and genuine. We chatted about New York and I explained how I'd met Bobby and then, between appetizer and entree, she headed off to mingle. She got back just in time to eat a quick bite before the presentations began. We saw wonderful films about various athletes, including Jim McClaren (the inspiration for CFA), Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, Major David Rozelle, Randy Garcia Tolson, Team Hoyt, and Sarah, each of whom (except Jim McClaren) also spoke. The entire event was just so moving and inspirational. Several board members were also spotlighted, including Bobby, who has personally raised over $500,000 for CFA. Some of their stories are on the CFA website, if you're interested. http://www.challengedathletes.org/athletes_stories/
When the presentation was concluded, we were served dessert and then the fun started. There was a live auction of some very special items (see the auction brochure). The bidding was slow, at first (though it exceeded my reach on the first call already in the thousands of dollars). The autioneer was pretty funny and made some good-hearted digs trying to get people to increase the bids for each item. The highlight of the auction was the bid for the slot in the 2007 or 2008 Ironman World Championships in Kona (which the auctioneer described as a chance to be totally exhausted). The winning bid was $40,000 and the man who won has just beaten cancer!
I was truly honored to be there and will be adding CFA to my list of charities. If you'd like to make a direct donation to CAF, click here: https://www.kintera.org/AutoGen/Simple/Donor.asp?ievent=96433&en=rwKYK7NSKdJQK6OVJhLQI6NTJmL9IqN5JmLYIdP3IwLfH. If you'd like to donate through Bobby's fundraising site, click here: http://www.ponyexpressrun.com/. They're doing amazing things to help challenged athletes around the world and the impact these challenged athletes are having is tremendous (e.g., Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah (http://www.challengedathletes.org/athletes_stories/Emmanuel_Yeboa.htm) is changing the way his country thinks of physically-challenged people.)
Pictures (of some of the hotel decor, Lexington Avenue, and the food): http://new.photos.yahoo.com/album?c=mytripsandraces&aid=576460762404980039&pid=&wtok=eBmahd1LCwG53JE2_owPjQ--&ts=1184964009&.src=ph