ORINDA -- One thing we all have in common is a belief in something. Regardless of one's chosen faith, or whether a good paycheck may be the more immediate concern, Diablo Magazine's 19th Annual Threads of Hope at the Orinda Theatre Dec. 5 provided common ground and reiterated one resounding truth -- that angels indeed live in the East Bay.
The award winners are our neighbors, fathers, mothers, grandparents, friends and colleagues whose ordinary lives have become heroic by what they give away, not what they hold onto.
"People are always committed to those in need in their communities, more now than ever," said Diablo Publisher and Threads of Hope founder Barney Fonzi, in an interview. "We feel that Threads of Hope showcases the good work of our honorees and the organizations they support."
From approximately 100 nominations, four judges selected eight recipients: four "individual" honorees and four "Cancer Crusaders," from Alamo, Moraga, Walnut Creek, Danville, Pleasanton and Vallejo.
Cancer Crusaders Lisa Monroe, Bob Hammer, Sandra J. Wing and Bonnie Waters recognized their niche in a global battle to reduce the stress and forfeiture caused by cancer. Monroe has volunteered in nearly every possible position at Camp Okizu, a facility near Oroville that offers respite for children with cancer and their families. Hammer turned a romp on a golf course into the Have a Ball Foundation, raising $50,000 with the first tournament in 2005. A cancer survivor, Hammer's efforts provide scholarships for nurses and send kids to camp. Wing fell under cancer's shadow in 2006 and learned the benefits of acupuncture and meditation in relieving her symptoms.
Healing Therapies works in the Tri-Valley, making alternative treatments available for patients and/or specific illnesses not typically covered by insurance.
Waters joined the Walnut Creek-based Cancer Support Community, bringing with her a passion for raising money. Undaunted by the amount of support a cancer patient needs, she has added a half-million dollars to the organization's bottom line, supporting classes, support groups and other resources. Waters, who attends Threads of Hope annually, said, "I never thought I'd be standing up here. The chance to help others is a rewarding opportunity."
Robert Pack's children, 10-year-old Troy and Alana, 7, were tragically killed in 2003 by a Danville nanny, whose lethal cocktail of drugs and vodka caused her to lose control of the car she was driving. "I wish I (wasn't) here tonight," Pack said, displaying with honesty the pain that will last his and his wife Carmen's lifetimes.
Pack hikes the state's capitol hallways, advocating for laws to eliminate "doctor shopping" (gathering multiple prescriptions to stockpile drugs), winning victories (SB 1694 and SB 1696 simplify DUI-to-DMV connections and program completion certification) and remembering his daughter Alana's words during their frequent runs ("Daddy, don't be a quitter!").
Dave and Lori Sanson's Concord-based De Nova Homes met up with HomeAid Northern California and has changed Contra Costa County's landscape. The Sansons built a house for a disable Martinez teenager in 2004 and never looked back. Thanking their mothers for "instilling the giving spirit in them," they accepted the award recognizing the completion of the first phase of a $12 million Mission Solano housing project for the homeless HomeAid is building in Fairfield.
Del Amigo Pool "Dolphin's" swim coach Janet Herman, an Alamo resident, introduced 35 teens to the joys of teaching 27 Down syndrome swimmers how to cruise to the finish line. Refusing to believe her top swimmers should get all the glory, "Coach Janet" inadvertently doubled their pleasure by involving them in the six-week training session she leads each summer. Nervous first-time coaches and swimmers found confidence together in the water, Herman said. Accompanying her, a former student of the program thanked his coach and accepted Herman's invitation to return -- as a junior
coach for the 2014 season.
Lou Bordisso was just 56 years old when he was handed something he didn't want -- a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer's. Paraphrasing an inscription on a John F. Kennedy memorial, the Vallejo psychologist/author-turned-advocate said people with the disease must "not sit still and lie in harbor. We should set sail. And often."
Bordisso is a familiar face, both in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., where he seeks changes in legislation to expedite finding a cure and speaks to medical groups, scientists and public policy specialists about his hope for the future.
"This honor has put the wind back in my sails," he told the "Threads" audience.