Atherton woman organizes all-star benefit
Tony Bennett, Joan Baez, Mickey Hart expected at Menlo Park event
When Mikey Hoag of Atherton lost her dad to Alzheimer's disease five years ago, it was a deep personal loss. But when she started to notice "every third friend has a family member with Alzheimer's" she realized "this is the time ... to increase awareness" — and do something big.
That something turned out to be a fundraising gala headlining Tony Bennett, Joan Baez, Mickey Hart and Bill Walton.
Ms. Hoag is chair of "Part the Cloud," a cocktail, dinner and dancing party that will be held Saturday, May 5, at the Rosewood Sand Hill hotel in Menlo Park starting at 6:30 p.m.
Plans are to set up a tent outside the ballroom and seat some 330 guests for dinner. Tony Bennett will serenade the guests, some speakers will talk about the disease, and then everyone will move indoors to hear former Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and his band. The Grammy-award winner has a new album coming out in April.
Ms. Hoag says Mr. Hart has invited his friends to join him, singer/songwriter Joan Baez of Woodside, and basketball star Jim Walton. Other celebrities are expected to attend, as well.
The performers have agreed to pro bono appearances, enabling all of the proceeds to go toward research that the Alzheimer's Association is sponsoring in Northern California.
"We're hoping for a sellout, to raise $300,000 to $400,000" at this inaugural event, says Ms. Hoag, leaving open the possibility of turning it into an annual fundraiser.
In a letter she wrote to encourage early sponsors, she writes that Alzheimer's is "the only disease in the top 10 causes of death without a way to prevent it, cure it, or slow its progression."
To further illustrate the need for more research, she repeats the Alzheimer's Association statistics: "The number of Americans who die each year from Alzheimer's has increased 66 percent since the year 2000. One in eight baby boomers will get the disease after they turn 65."
The Obama administration has asked for an increase of $156 million in money spent on Alzheimer's research. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, funding for Alzheimer's research was at $450 million, compared to $3 billion for HIV/AIDS, $4 billion for heart and cardiovascular disease, and $5.8 billion for cancer research.
In her attempt to raise more money for Alzheimer's research, Ms. Hoag has attended fundraising galas for Alzheimer's in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
When she decided to devote her energy to planning a local event, she assembled a steering committee of "women who have Alzheimer's in their family, and feel it's time to do something in this area" to educate and inspire Silicon Valley entrepreneurs to get involved.
The committee includes Sue Foley and Laurie Lacob of Woodside; Lulu Frye, Anne Lawler, Bren Leisure and Sally Robinson of Atherton; and Liz King and Betsy Matteson of Menlo Park.
Ms. Hoag says Tony Bennett agreed to sing at the event because he has heard some stories from fans that after listening to his songs some people suffering from dementia have "come out of the fog" and started talking again.
As for Mr. Hart's involvement in the cause, Ms. Hoag says, "He wants to raise money for music therapy because he believes that helps Alzheimer's patients."
She said she believes the name of the event, Part the Cloud, "gives hope. Your brain is filled with clouds ... with Alzheimer's, it's stormy clouds, and we want to make it clear clouds."
Right now sponsors are being solicited to buy tables at levels ranging from $10,000 to $50,000. Individual tickets will be on sale later in the month for $1,000 apiece.
Visit alz.org/partthecloud or call (312) 604-2453 for more information.