In 2005, I began a tradition that both delights and invigorates me.
I had never had a birthday party in my life, and that year, my then-husband Dennis wanted to throw one for me. It would be my fiftieth, an occasion that seemed more auspicious for the decades of dire predictions about my imminent demise.
We planned it together, he and I and my friend Lynn Roberts. We borrowed Jimmy Buffet’s fine song, “A Pirate Looks at Forty”, as our theme. We bought a Jolly Rogers flag and a few trinkets, skulls and fake gold coins. Lynn and I went silly with the invitations, sprinkling “Arrgh, Mateys!” in every line.
Then Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. The stories of devastation, loss, and death flooded the news. We read it outloud at the breakfast table, holding the pictures high for teen-age Patrick to see. Our stomachs lurched. We yearned to help.
An old friend, Joshua Dara, messaged that his north Louisiana church had taken in fifteen hundred refugees, sleeping in the church knave or farmed out to parishioners. A plan began to form. We put a bucket on the dessert buffet with a sign thanking anyone for contributions to help defray the cost of housing and food for Reverend Dara’s ministry to those New Orleanians.
We raised nearly $2,000.00, thanks in part to a check from Bev Elving on behalf of her employer, Applebee’s.
It felt good. So good, that I had a “double-nickel” party five years later to benefit the Children’s Miracle Network, which my son’s fraternity at DePauw University, SAE, had chosen as their charity of the year.
In 2010, I started Art @ Suite 100 with Penny Thieme and my colleagues at Suite 100, including my now-former-spouse, Jim MacLaughlin (who remains a stalwart supporter of the event despite our divorce). We wanted to give local and regional artists the opportunity to show without gallery fees and to sell their art to folks who might not otherwise ever see their work. Four years ago, we added an annual benefit to raise funds and awareness for survivors of family violence. Our two charities straddle the state line, SAFEHOME in Kansas and Rose Brooks Center in Missouri. The first year of the event, we basically threw a pot on the table, just as I had done at the inaugural CC Birthday Bash and Benefit in 2005. We got donations totalling around $750, something like that. It felt darn good to be able to divide the money between the two agencies, and know that we had taken them a tiny way closer to helping another survivor escape her abuser. (Yes, most domestic violence survivors are women or children, but not all, not all.)
We chose the quarterly art show in September for the timing of this benefit because my birthday is 05 September. I was born on Labor Day, an irony that did not get past my mother. I don’t need presents, and I don’t get too many these days. My asthma prevents me from blowing out so many candles. So why not “give my birthday” to these impactful programs? it only makes sense.
The next year, 2015, we invited Jackson County PA Jean Peters Baker and Johnson County DA Steve Howe to speak at our event. We added live music and an auction, though none of us had any experiencing running them. We raised about $2,500.00 and it felt even better than the prior year’s result. We knew that in addition to raising money, we had reached out to the community and raised their awareness of this insidious crime.
We did the same in 2016, adding Family Court Commissioner Martina Peterson and motivational speaker, survivor, and artist Jilli Nel to the agenda. As always, our featured artists had a direct connection to family violence, as survivors. In last year’s show, we included two men who had been raised in foster care due to abuse in their homes. Their work still haunts me, and one of their pieces stands bold and beautiful on my dining room wall. I could not resist “Ginger Peach” by Robin Thomas Hall. Facing it, an amazing painting by our own Jili Nel speaks of eternity, a gift to me from my lovely and resilient soul-sister.
In 2016, we raised over $3,200.00. Sweet. Our gratitude for those who attended knows no limits.
So: You own a calendar, at least on your phone. You know that September 05th lurks just around the corner. Due to various conflicts, we’ve scheduled the birthday bash and benefit a little later. On September 23rd, we’ll strive to outdo all prior years and hit no less than $5,000.00. That’s going to take all of us — including each of you, my friends.
This year’s theme is HOPE FLOATS. I stole the name from my favorite Sandra Bullock movie. I’ve made it our own. I believe that hope will always rise, always take us with it, always keep us buoyed above the danger, the fear, and the flames.
I don’t want or need any material goods for my birthday. In fact, I’m down-sizing as some of you know. But I would like you each and every one to attend the next benefit for SAFEHOME and Rose Brooks Center, 23 September 2017, from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. As always, it takes place at 4010 Washington, Kansas City, Missouri. Our auction will be fabulous this year. It will feature gift baskets that will make your date-night or family gathering a smashing success. Our band, The Accidental Project, will be auctioning a private party performance. Jilli Nel will run the live auction and Karla Hull will staff the raffle table. A silent auction and the tip jars round out the giving opportunities.
Our featured artists all have survived family violence. They have all thrived. Their work powerfully portrays their commitment to hope, to their survival, and to sharing their dreams and their experiences with you.
I hope each of you can attend this benefit. As always, I will greet you at the door. Bring your check books and your cash. The agencies will be on hand to tell you about their work. PA Jean Peters Banker, DA Steve Howe, and Comm. Peterson will share their insights on survivors and the terrible circumstances from which they escape. There will be food donated by several area businesses, a tip jar at the bar, and a wonderful assortment of auction raffle items. The artists will be on hand to talk about and sell their work. Each of the artists is donating to the auction and to the benefit. The evening will be unforgettable.
If you can’t attend, but want to donate, please mail a check to me made out to SAFEHOME or Rose Brooks Center. Put “Hope Floats” in the memo section and I will add it to the proceeds when we distribute them after the event. Both agencies are 501(c)(3) and will send a tax receipt if you wish to have one. My address is:
M. Corinne Corley
Corley Law Firm
4010 Washington, Suite 100
Kansas City, Missouri 64111
If you want to learn more about the event, click HERE. A sponsor page is “under construction” and will go live soon, along with a list of auction and raffle items which we build as the donations come to us.
If you can’t attend and don’t wish for some reason to mail a check, then click on one of the agency pages and look for their “DONATE” buttons. If you have a chance to make a comment, please note that your donation is made in honor of the Art @ Suite 100 HOPE FLOATS September 23rd benefit. Thank you for that.
Last year, Ruthie Becker (one of this year’s featured artists) donated a painting of her daughter who is still in the throes of domestic violence. I won that painting at auction, and will display it on my office wall the night of the September 23rd benefit. As a survivor of chaos myself, long before that chaos had a name and a movement to combat it, this painting speaks to me as few others. Its message tells me that I am right: Hope Floats. with all of us working together to help, everything will be all right in the end.
Our other featured artists, Lori Hooten, Jill Huxtable, and Amy Fisher each bring a unique voice to depiction of surviving and thriving after family violence. I’ve seen some of the pieces which will premier at our event. You don’t want to miss this. You will not be able to walk among this poignant collection without being moved.
Moved enough to take out your wallet, we’re hoping. But even if you cannot contribute, or bid, or buy, please come. I cannot tell you how honored I will be to see you walk through the door. It will be my best birthday ever.
It’s the twentieth day of the forty-fourth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.
Ruthie Becker’s powerful “Portrait of My Daughter”
Please use the social media buttons to share this post and spread the word. Here is the FACEBOOK EVENT.. Please visit the EVENT PAGE and tell us if you are “going” or “interested”, so that others will know that you support our benefit. Thank you.