LONG ISLAND, NY – The first Annual Island Gift of Life Summer Soirée took place on Saturday, August 15th, 2015 from 4- 7pm at the Ram’s Head Inn in Shelter Island Heights, NY. The event presented a delightful night of shopping with J.McLaughlin, live music by Erich Collins Carey Constituency, light bites and cocktails while benefiting The Island Gift of Life Foundation, a Shelter Island nonprofit dedicated to improving the quality of life of patients suffering from life-threatening illnesses through financial support and services.
I was pleased to talk to Board Member and President Kenneth J. Lewis.
Island Gift of Life Foundation President Kenneth J. Lewis and Cognac Wellerlane.
Cognac interviews President Kenneth J. Lewis at the First Annual Island Gift of Life Summer Soiree at the Rams Head Inn
Welcome back darlings, I am Cognac Wellerlane and we are here at the Island Gift Of Life Summer Soiree right here on Shelter Island and I am here with the president of the organization and he is going to introduce himself to the camera.
Kenneth: Hi, I am Ken Lewis. I am the president of the Island Gift of Life Foundation and this is our first annual summer soiree. We do a March event every year at this very location at the Rams Head inn.
Kenneth: Yes, we are really excited. We have been trying to figure out a new way to raise some awareness and maybe hit a new demographic then we usually do at our March event so hopefully this is going to be the beginning of something great for us.
It’s a beautiful night. You have everything all the components…the place is gorgeous, the food is outrageous! Tell my audience who catered all the food?
Kenneth: The food is catered from Auturo’s from the Hamptons. They donated all the food. There making these fabulous panini’s and passing around hor d’oeuvres for us tonight. The Rams Head Inn is hosting us right here on Shelter Island. They donated all the alcohol and soft drinks for us and this fabulous location. It’s really a fabulous night. We could not ask for a better night. It’s a little hot but we are all in the shade.
The people from the generation that the house was built in 1929, they built these houses with a lot of trees surrounding them for the shade. It’s very Gatsby like.
Kenneth: It is, this place is a very Gatsby like place!
It certainly is!
Kenneth: I said It is going to be so hot but I forgot about all the trees out on the back lawn.
That is what the rich did they built their homes with lots of trees for the shade because there was no air conditioning at that time.
Kenneth: When the sun goes down the breeze kicks in and cools everything down.
Tell my audience how you got involved and why did you get involved with this organization?
Kenneth: I would say it is close to twelve years ago I was asked by the then board president if I would do a live auction for them at their March event. We always had a Chinese auction and sold raffle tickets. We started doing a live auction with five and six items. I had done some local MCing on shelter island for road races and other charity events so he asked me one day “Would you do this live auction for us,” and I said “I haven’t done them before but I will give it a shot” so that was sought of my introduction.
We had a successful night so I kept doing the auctions for them and then they asked me to become a board member. I have been on the Board of Directors now I think for at least ten years. I got involved I knew the woman and her family very well that this was all based on Cheryl Hannabury who was a woman living on Shelter Island. She had Non-Hodgkins Lympoma and it was stared as a grass roots effort, local folks trying to help her find a bone marrow match. She did not have great insurance at the time so as you can imagine her money was running out pretty quickly.
I am sure and the expense on her family!
Kenneth: Absolutely, so a group of local people here on Shelter Island got together and raised money to help her out and then as a result of that fundraising effort it blossomed into this organization. While Cheryl was still alive they formed a formal non-profit, 501c(3) charitable organization which we are now the Island Gift Of Life and we continue really in Cheryl’s name. Her dream was to help people with life threatening illnesses with some of the uncovered expenses. Not only for the patients but for the families as well. It’s been great! I feel very proud to do it!
The proceeds for tonight’s event…..the sales from the shopping goes towards this organization. What is it …fifteen percent?
Kenneth: Yes, I think fifteen percent….J. McLaughlin is conducting a sale and fifteen percent of whatever they sell will go towards the charity. We will have a raffle at the end of the night. We are hoping for this to be a kickoff. This is going to be an annual event for us in the summer.
If you do obtain a significant amount of funds from this event, do you have a goal in mind that you would like to attach the funds to….is there something that you would like to do for the organization for this year?
Kenneth: Well one thing that we do every year is we donate ten thousand dollars each year to the bone marrow registry. So that takes place in a lot of blood drives. You see blood drives popping up all over the place and at a blood drive people can get a cheek swab done. They will fill out some paperwork to see if they would be interested in possibly being a bone marrow donor that then goes on after the initial test is done on the cheek swab. If they discover that the person meets a certain criteria an additional test is then done on that cheek swab. That additional test is a lot of what we fund.
This fundraiser will help with that?
Kenneth: Absolutely and will help to go into our general fund which is what we use to help people on a case by case basis. What we do is not always about giving grant money. We are able to help people sometimes just with navigating the health care system.
Tell my audience where we can go to find out more information. Where can we go to support, contribute, donate and participate? What is the website?
Kenneth: You can go right to our website which is www.IslandGiftofLife.org
Rams Head Inn Owner Linda Eklund and Cognac Wellerlane.
Cognac Wellerlane interviews Art Auction Coordinator Catherine Brigham and Board Member and Owner of the Rams Head Inn Linda Eklund at the First Annual Island Gift of Life Summer Soiree at the Rams Head Inn.
The Island Gift of Life Foundation began as the dream of an island resident, Cheryl Hannabury, who had battled Non-Hodgkins Lympoma for many years. Her hope was to develop an organization that would assist families with the un-insured expenses incurred while treating the disease as well as for the collateral expenses incurred such as travel, lodging, etc. of the family & support team. It was also her hope to increase the awareness of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, as well as the importance of increasing the bone-marrow donor registry for this disease.
In February of 2001 the Foundation became a non-profit organization after many generous donations were made to the Foundation. At this time the Island Gift of Life held a blood /bone marrow drive with the intent to add to the bone marrow donor registry and possibly find a match for Cheryl. The program was so successful that 100 people were added to the registry. Unfortunately Cheryl succumbed to the disease despite all efforts to save her. But her dream continues today with the present activities of the Foundation she inspired.
The Island Gift of Life Foundation is a non-profit, 501c(3) charity that provides financial assistance and other related services to people with life threatening illnesses who reside in the townships on the East End of Long Island, NY. Island Gift is completely donor funded and our volunteer board members provide all services free of charge. Therefore the bulk of donated funds go directly to the patients.