A ‘spaghetti dinner’ that led me to bond with a hemophilia community
The friendships forged while raising funds for those with bleeding disorders
One fall evening in 1998, I looked around my dining room table in Houston and saw the faces of men and women who’d become some of my dearest friends over the past year. Laughter flooded the room as we stood in awe at what we’d accomplished.
I stood, raised a glass, and offered a toast: “Here’s to us, a mighty crew that slew dragons to bring one of the most successful fundraising events of the year to the Lone Star Hemophilia Foundation.” Everyone joined me in celebrating our accomplishments.
As we continued to enjoy one another’s company, I couldn’t help but think through the process of our fundraising efforts. It started with the first meeting I attended as a member of the board of directors. Our president, Rita Gonzales, challenged us to think of ways to raise funds for camp and other opportunities to improve the quality of life for those with bleeding disorders including hemophilia, which my young son had (and a second would also have).
I quickly told her that I had a surefire way to raise money. I was a teacher at the time, and my parent group sponsored a spaghetti dinner each year and raised money to help defray classroom expenses. Most of the funds helped provide opportunities for all my student choir members to receive a reduced rate on their yearly trips to compete at state and national competitions. No student needed to feel left out because of financial constraints.
Rita thought it was a good idea and asked if we could discuss the fundraiser after our meeting. Later, as my wife, Cazandra, and several others concentrated on a spaghetti dinner, Rita suggested we think a little bigger. She asked, “What if we hosted a formal event, complete with a live and silent auction instead of a spaghetti dinner?” We quickly responded yes and began a long process to make the evening a reality.
Cazandra and I served as co-chairs of the event. We honored Loras Goedken, a standout in the hemophilia community. While I didn’t know the man, I learned of his family’s tragedy. Loras and seven other family members died of AIDS, acquiring HIV through contaminated blood products while infusing factor VIII. The Goedken family, at the time, was considered to have the largest number of people in one family to die from AIDS-related complications.
Although I never met Loras, I embraced his story as part of my narrative. We were blood brothers, united in a bond called hemophilia that brought us together.
Our formal evening proved successful on many levels for the Lone Star Hemophilia Foundation. First, we raised money far above our expectations. Camp Ailihpomeh (hemophilia spelled backward) in Texas was able to offer more educational activities for the children who attended. I took pride in knowing that our efforts helped improve the quality of life for the younger members of our community.
A second and more selfish measure of success were the many meetings around the planning committee’s dinner tables. As we developed the evening’s details, something magical happened. I found my way into the bleeding disorders community and made friends with amazing people who served without hesitation.
A bond sprung out of the strategic mission as I realized we all spoke a similar language. Each person lived with someone who struggled with hemophilia. My story crossed paths with theirs, Loras Goedken’s, and that of many others who sought to improve the quality of life for our community. Together, we formed a great big family of blood brothers and sisters.
Back at my dinner table, we laughed at some of the struggles we had to overcome to make the gala a huge success. We promised never to do this again. And then the question came up, “Will we do this next year?” Once again, we raised our glasses. “Of course!” we said.
The moment glasses clinked and we made promises to work together again to do even better next year, I smiled. I found my tribe and felt a part of a mighty group of men and women who exuded talent, joy, and hope. “Here’s to us!”
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