July 26, 2009
2009 Into The Light Gala
The inaugural Into The Light Gala, held May 20 at Ballantyne Village Theatre in Charlotte, N.C., was a resounding success by every measure. In addition to providing a wonderful evening of festive fellowship, the Gala also achieved its goal of bringing an awareness of Lyme disease to an audience that extended beyond so-called Lyme Nation.
Prominent guests who attended the Gala included a representative from NC Gov. Beverly Perdue's office, along with several members of the Charlotte City Council. The event, which received extensive media coverage, was attended by nearly five hundred people, including physicians from across the state; people whose lives have been directly impacted by Lyme; and others who were simply curious to learn more about the debilitating disease and the strides being made to bring lasting health to those who suffer from it.
Special video footage of the Gala can be viewed here, and portions of the powerful speech delivered by Dr. Joseph Jemsek can be seen here.
"We look at the Lyme epidemic and we look at a prime example of a broken healthcare system," Jemsek said in receiving the Gala's Horizon Award, presented to medical pioneers that step forth in the face of adversity, think beyond the boundaries of medicine, and seek the truth about Lyme disease. "In fact, Lyme may be the thing that's the leading edge for change in healthcare."
"Victims of Lyme disease are victimized twice by this illness," Jemsek said. "First by the unending suffering attached with the illness, and second by a healthcare system that ignores them; and sometimes doesn't just ignore them, it mocks them and ridicules them."
One of the Gala's main goals was to help change that dynamic.
"We're thankful that the Gala was able to serve as a vehicle to enlighten people about the issues surrounding Lyme disease and patient care," said Jemsek, whose Jemsek Specialty Clinic, of Fort Mill, S.C., hosted the event.
Capping off the evening, the Into The Light Gala featured the southeastern theatrical premiere of the award-winning Lyme documentary, Under Our Skin.
"I'm a little overwhelmed right now, and just moved by how far we've come," said Andy Abrahams Wilson, the movie's producer/director, who was present at the Gala to receive one of this year's Visionary Awards.
"Crisis creates community, and we're seeing that here," Wilson said. "And that's happening not just because the film has been made but because people are using it; because of Turn the Corner and other organizations, because of the Jemsek Specialty Clinic, which organized this event tonight, and because of the countless individuals and community groups all over the country that are brining this (film) into their communities to make a difference."
Staci Grodin, of Turn the Corner Foundation, and Gregg and Monte Skall, of National Capital Lyme & Tick-borne Disease Association, also received Visionary Awards, which were presented at the Gala to honor individuals who have raised awareness of Lyme disease and have pursued research and advancements to better the lives of Lyme patients and the doctors who treat them.
Both groups deserve special recognition and thanks for sponsoring the Into The Light Gala, along with numerous individuals who gave generously to make the event a reality.
"As the official charity outreach partner of Under Our Skin," Grodin said, "we are thrilled to provide maximum exposure for this film and continue to advance our mission to support research, education, awareness, and innovative treatments for Lyme and tick-borne illnesses."
Special thanks are also extended to Jordan Fisher Smith, a park ranger and author of the book Nature Noir, who was one of the patients profiled in Under Our Skin and traveled all the way from the mountains of the Sierra Nevadas to emcee the Into The Light Gala.
The Gala also featured the presentation of this year's Courage Awards, which honored individuals who show how the human spirit can overcome adversity with steadfast resolve and an enormous capacity of hope, compassion, grace, and strength. This year's Courage Awards were presented to PJ Langhoff, Dave Tierney, Kathy Fowler, Dr. Cara Davis, Kalyn Faggart, David Jacks, and Mandy Hughes.
"When it feels like you're sinking, it's great to know you're not alone," said Hughes, a patient who was profiled in Under Our Skin and spoke on behalf of Courage Awards recipients at the Into The Light Gala.
"What a perfect time to share this knowledge with others so that they can arm themselves with an education to protect their loved ones," Hughes said. "After all, Lyme is an acronym that stands for, 'Listen, you must educate.' Together, we can make that difference."
That mission didn't stop with this year's Into The Light Gala. Preparation and planning is already underway for next year's event, with the goal of shining even more light on Lyme disease. The Jemsek Specialty Clinic is asking for assistance in helping to make next year's event another huge success. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org to share your thoughts of what you'd like to see featured at next year's Gala, to start the ball rolling for fundraising opportunities, or to secure advance reservations for next year's event.