Big Sports, Bigger Causes: A Speakeasy Fundraiser To Fight Pediatric Cancer

Columbus Blue Jacket Foundation Buys My Art, Donates to Nationwide Children’s Hospital

by Daric Gill

Live painting at "The Crease" Speakeasy Fundraiser
Live painting at “The Crease” Speakeasy Fundraiser

It’s a big weekend here in Columbus, OH. The NHL All-Star Game has come to town and Columbus is a willing host. With a trucked in 34-foot tall, 85-foot wide snow slide that is as fun as it sounds, national news coverage, and high society events planned for each night, it’s easy to see how the city is abuzz with high impact energy. The 8-10,000 out-of-towners estimated to trickle in over the weekend will have their fill of sports, events, and most importantly charitable benefits. I had the pleasure of participating at such an event Thursday night on behalf of the Columbus Blue Jacket Foundation to fight pediatric cancer.

"Me & The Zamboni", Acrylic and marker on aspen, 34" x 22 1/2, 1.22.15.
“Me & The Zamboni”, Acrylic and marker on aspen, 34″ x 22 1/2, 1.22.15.

The first thought that comes to mind when you hear NHL isn’t probably “cancer fighters”. However, the Columbus Blue Jacket Foundation has worked tirelessly to challenge this notion. Thursday night’s “The Crease” Speakeasy reportedly brought in over $600,000+ in aid. In addition, they teamed up with Nationwide Children’s Hospital for further impact. This included the purchase of one of my ToeHead illustration (painted live at the benefit) which will then be donated to the Nationwide Children’s Hospital as part of the atmosphere in their Family Resource Center. Please read on for more details and a slight tell-all about how this hits home for me.

“The Crease” A Swanky Speakeasy
Setting up before the event
Setting up before the event

The massive ballroom at The Columbus Athenaeum flittered with fire breathers and sequined-dressed flappers. Period attire and speakeasy doormen requesting secret passwords for entry were only part of the ambiance of this extravagant affair. The prohibition-inspired festivities ($1,000 a ticket) included a food and drink menu to match the theme as well as other live entertainment — like me. I painted one of my ToeHead illustrations on a 3 ft. panel during the speakeasy event.

Sara Bareilles
Sara Bareilles Sings

Topping the night off, there was a surprise private concert held in the upstairs auditorium. I was completely astounded to learn that while I cleaned up my painting station, Grammy-nominated artist Sara Bareilles graced our presence in what I could only describe as a very small VIP concert for the several hundred guests who remained at the tail end of the night. Sara sang with power, conviction, and well… an honesty that I’ve not heard from a live performance in a long while. Maybe even ever. Since I walked in late, I politely flanked the crowd and made my way to the top of the auditorium seating. However, after realizing that this was a crowd of guests no larger than some of my high school musicals, I quickly found an open seat maybe 40 feet from stage. She was like a warm bath of vocal spirit and wit. She was nice. Comfortable.

Kids, Cancer, & My History: The Bigger Cause

With all of the glitz and glamour of such a swanky soirée, it’s easy to get caught up in the celebrity of it all. In all honesty, I wasn’t entirely sure how such a massive undertaking would be pulled off in a way that didn’t seem to upstage the real cause. However, the event was spectacularly well-organized by the capable team at IM Creative and the CBJ Foundation fundraising numbers don’t lie. With over $2 million raised for this cause, they are certainly doing something right. Really right.

Pediatric cancer and the threats it can cause hits close to the vest to me. And I mean that literally. Most people who’ve known me for many years aren’t aware that I had a fairly major surgery as a child to remove a lymph node in my neck that was precancerous. Of course, my situation is only a faint whisper of what many of the brave children fighting cancers face daily. None-the-less, this has indeed re-inforced my appreciation for early detection and note-worthy institutions such as the Columbus Blue Jacket Foundation and the Nationwide Children’s Hospital. I was lucky and walked away with a Frankenstein-like neck scar that I could tell my 4th grade class about. If I can help (even in the slightest) to make this the maximum threat a child faces, I’m 100% on board.

In preparations for this blog entry, all blog entries really, I do a bit of fact checking first. I came across this coverage by on the event. My initial response was a bit of pride and even some personal congratulations for being portrayed in a crowd shot of the event. As I read, I found that they interviewed a man who actually had lost his uncle to cancer the day before the fundraiser. His wife had lost her aunt to cancer only two years earlier. This adds some weight, a real perspective to the night that I want to hold closely.

To Mark Gernert and your family; to the children and their families fighting the good fight: My heart and prayers go out to you. Thank you for being lights that shine so brightly.

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