By Kate Daly | Special to the Almanac
"We blew the doors off," said Michaela "Mikey" Hoag of Atherton, after chairing the "Part the Cloud Gala" in Menlo Park recently and raising a record $4 million.
Silicon Valley donors really rallied to the cause, she said, making the event "the biggest fundraiser the Alzheimer's Association has had in its history."
Past fundraisers held in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago have been attended by some 800 people. The Menlo Park black-tie event at the Rosewood Sand Hill was a sellout at 320 people. Guests paid from $1,500 to $5,000 a person for cocktails, a seated catered dinner, and entertainment in a decorated white carpeted tent.
"A lot of our expenses were taken care of. We had 15 corporate sponsors ... and most of the vendors discounted," Ms. Hoag was happy to report. That leaves more funds to go "nationwide towards clinical trials," she said. "I call it late-stage research."
When Ms. Hoag launched the first "Part the Cloud Gala" in 2012, the focus was on Northern California. Research grants totaling $2 million were awarded for early-stage drug development. This time, she said, the Alzheimer's Association will assemble a group of 20 scientists from 12 countries to process grant applications "and look outside at the best possible research."
Ms. Hoag founded Part the Cloud to raise money and boost awareness of the disease. "The number of Americans who die each year from Alzheimer's has increased 68 percent since the year 2000," according to the program for the benefit. "One in nine baby boomers will get the disease after they turn 65."
Ms. Hoag's father had Alzheimer's disease, and now her mother has it. But her involvement goes beyond personal. She wants people to know "it's OK to talk about it. You don't have to keep it in silence. Everyone is sort of touched by it. Let's figure out a cure."
Ms. Hoag spent months planning this year's fundraiser, then found herself looking for a quick fix when politician, author and activist Mark Shriver arrived too sick to carry on as master of ceremonies. At the Part the Cloud luncheon a year ago, Mr. Shriver talked about his father, Sargent, having Alzheimer's.
At the May 3 gala, Mark Shriver was supposed to introduce the head of Alzheimer's Association, and an Alzheimer's patient and caregiver from the Bay Area, and then run the fund-a-need auction. But Mr. Shriver was in the midst of passing a kidney stone, and instead ended up in the hospital.
At 8:15 p.m. Ms. Hoag swiftly switched to an impromptu Plan B, asking two Honorary Dinner Committee guests to fill in, actresses Brooke Shields and Virginia Madsen.
Ms. Shields lost her mother to Alzheimer's in 2012 and Ms. Madsen knew the disease first hand through her aunt. The actresses had collaborated on a feature film that Woodside resident Laurie Kraus Lacob was involved in as executive producer a couple years ago. Ms. Lacob was on the Part the Cloud steering committee and instrumental in getting them to come to the event.
"The two of them weren't even going to speak," Ms. Hoag said, but they agreed to skip dinner, learn the script and improvise the auction part. "I thought Virginia and Brooke have done a fabulous job," Ms. Hoag said.
Rock musician and actor Chris Isaak performed, inviting guests to get up and dance to his songs. The after-party in the ballroom featured another rock band, the Cheeseballs, that played until midnight.
Ms. Hoag said she has received a lot of compliments on what an intimate, warm, and fun evening the gala was. She will "probably end up doing it again in two years," but for right now, she said she and her steering committee want to rest.
The committee included Sue Foley, Lulu Frye, Stephanie Harman, and Ms. Lacob of Woodside; Melissa Badger, Anne Lawler, Bren Leisure and Sally Robinson of Atherton; Betsy Matteson of Menlo Park; and Ellen Drew, Liz King, Heather Pietsch, Debbie Robbins and Paula Robichaud.
Contributions can still be made to Part the Cloud by contacting Dagmar Schildwach at (650) 962-8111 or at: Alzheimer's Association, 1060 La Avenida St., Mountain View, CA 94043.