Most of you know that in October, Tom competed in the Hawaii Ironman. Our trip to Kona was the reason I started this blog and many of you helped in his fundraising efforts leading up to the race. In February, Tom told me that the Alzheimer’s Association, for which he had fundraised, had invited him to their annual gala event on Saturday, April 11.
I wasn’t surprised that they would invite him to the event, he’d spoken at their annual Memory Walk and I figured that he was on the list now; he’d be alerted of all their programs. I had committed months prior to the SCBWI Poconos writing conference, so I figured he could attend the event alone. Not ideal, maybe, but not the end of the world.
In March, I received a call from Wendy Campbell, the President of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
“Laura, I know you’ve committed to a conference and I completely understand but Tom is receiving our individual contributor award, one of our highest honors, and he really needs someone there,” she said.
“He’s what?” I asked. This is reason #1 that my husband is awesome – because he doesn’t know he’s awesome. He was too modest to tell me that he was being honored, and not just an attendee of the event. Not only that, he knows how important my writing is to me and he didn’t want me to change my plans because of him.
But he’s also my best friend and there was no way I would miss seeing him receive an award. With the help of the conference director, Mary Ann Scott, I arranged to leave the conference early. Within thirty minutes of arriving home from the Poconos, with him in his tux and me in my dress, we were heading to the Loews Hotel in Philadelphia for the event, dubbed the Chocolate Symphony.
As we moved our way through the crowd, Tom was stopped again and again and thanked for his contribution to the organization. Reason # 2: Tom spreads the love. He didn’t feel that he deserved the credit, he felt that all of you, who supported him in his efforts, were the ones to be recognized.
We made our way to our table, it was hard to find since the number was so strange: #965. We couldn’t, for the life of us, figure out why they had numbered our table that way in a room of 30 tables total. At times the evening was heart-wrenching; hearing people’s stories of their loved ones dealing with Alzheimer’s is not easy and I was struggling for composure at some points. I was especially grateful that Tom’s sister, Diane and her husband, Dave, were there with us.
When it was time for the Individual Contributor Award, Jon Runyan, formerly of the Eagles, introduced Tom and showed a clip of the video that Tom made (with help from our techie our younger son) of the Hawaii Ironman. That’s when it hit us. Our table number was #965 because that was Tom’s number in the race. As the video drew to a close with Tom finishing the race, a cheer went up through the whole room and I felt that I was back in Hawaii again, watching my husband complete the biggest race of his life. Jon then presented Tom with the award ‘athlete to athlete’. And Tom took the stage. Reason #3: My man can speak! Tom gave a speech so moving and real that he received a standing ovation. He had worked hard on the speech, taking it very seriously, and while it’s a bit too long to post here, I’ll leave you with the final words:
“The most precious gift that I received from this whole experience is a belief. A belief that the Ironman motto: “Anything is Possible” is true if we are willing to work hard.
• It is possible for us to fight this disease;
• It is possible to raise awareness;
• It is possible to raise more money;
• And it is possible to find a cure.
The fact that all of you are here is a testament to your commitment to fight Alzheimer’s. Let’s continue to set goals, work hard to achieve them and dream of success because Anything is Possible.”
Now, the evening wasn’t all serious – we had a great time at the live auction. Tom was very excited by the opportunity to attend a Phillies game for four complete with dinner in the Executive Dining Room, batting practice and pictures with players. As the bidding climbed higher, Tom’s own friends and family upped the ante but in the end, Tom won because Reason #4 that my husband is made of Awesome is that when he wants something, he doesn’t give up. Phillies – here we come!