Celebration of Hope 2016 Gala Recap

If I could only use one word to describe this year’s AGC Scholarship Foundation AprillCelebration of Hope Gala, that word would be: powerful. From the Nor’Easters, to the posters, to the speakers, to the stories of trials and triumphs, to the auction items, (to my husband’s sweet surprise for me,) to MEN speaking for the first time, to being honored as the Hope Award recipient, to the amount of money raised-the emotionally charged energy felt in the room was palpable. I’ll do my best to take you through this journey (this year with video footage!), but there is no way to recreate the feels adequately…

After the cocktail hour, which is when people bid on the silent auction items, everyone was ushered into the main ballroom. The Nor’Easters kicked things off by belting out a few tunes for the crowd. Their performance was incredible. If you ever get the chance to hear these musicians live, you should certainly take the opportunity. The last song, a cover of Sia’s “Alive”, finished with the first round of tears on the night. Women from the AGC support group (including myself) took the stage with posters about their infertility journey. How many years, how many treatment cycles, how many losses, on one side. At a particularly poignant part of the song, each woman flipped her poster over to reveal the outcome, or where they stood now, on the other side of the poster. As we stood there, waiting to flip our posters, lost in the music and emotion of the night, you could see our chins quivering. Then, one after the other, we burst into tears as we flipped our signs. Again, it is very difficult to put the emotion into words…to see the video, please click here. To this day, whenever I hear “Alive” on the radio I belt it like Sia (JUST like her) and tears always seem to pour out. Not sad tears, but rather those tears that are angry and empowered; the tears that evoke determination and change. And, all the hairs on the back of my neck stand at attention at the “flip” spot. Gets me EVERY time.

_MG_9742posters 2Next, something incredible happened. A MAN took the stage to introduce the night’s _MG_9643MC: Aprill Lane, AGC Scholarship Foundation’s president and founder. It may not seem like a big deal to have had a man speak, but let me tell you, IT IS. I think one of the reasons women feel so isolated with this disease is because men and women feel it so differently. Likely, it takes much longer for a man to understand the severity of what the woman is going through, and it is hard for him to support it. And when it comes to men speaking about it? Forget it. So, as Jonathan Thompson took the stage, he made Celebration of Hope Gala history by being the first man to voice the story of he and his wife Keri’s struggle. Hats off, Jonathan. (His speech can be heard at the end of the “Alive” video.)

_MG_9770Then, another incredible thing happened…I was trying to stay calm, cool, and collected as I prepared to make my speech for receiving the Hope Award. Aprill gave the crowd a little background information about MCMaternity, and my volunteer work with AGC, but then instead of inviting me on stage, she invited my husband, Jimmy. He had reached out to her privately and asked if he could present the award to me. So much for calm, cool, and collected. I slid into a muddle of mush as I listened to Jimmy speak. Proud of him for speaking (now the 2nd male!), touched by his kind words, and so, so heartbroken by the whole situation at the same time. Luckily, he ended on a funny note; I pulled it together, and delivered my speech. Although I tried, HARD, not to, more tears were shed, and loud sniffles were heard through the microphone. My dad left his table and met me at my seat to give me a hug when I walked offstage; it was a really sweet personal moment. (To hear our speeches, please click here.)

_MG_9776Next, it was time for the keynote speaker, Elizabeth Carr. She was the first baby born in the U.S. via IVF. Her parents even had to move to Virginia for the treatment, as it was illegal in Massachusetts at the time. Elizabeth is a special person as she realizes that even though she did not struggle with infertility herself, the disease affects so many people and needs advocacy.

Woo boy. Thinking about the next speaker’s speech still chokes me up, and sears through my heart. Lindsay, the amount of strength it took to share your story, and to tell it so poignantly, is beyond belief. I cannot comprehend what you and your husband have gone through; the love you have for your children is so, so admirable, and the way you can appreciate what you have, and what you have lost…I’m bawling at the memory. I would say more, but you just need to hear it. I was audibly sobbing through most of it. Thank you for sharing your story, Lindsay.

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Next came the live auction. It was very lively this year, with bidding wars at all angles. As requested in my speech, people really were “making it rain”. Between all of the silent auction items, ticket sales, live auction items, donations from people who could not attend the event, and paddle donations, the AGC Scholarship Foundation raised $39,000 on the evening. That money is going to help REAL people start families. That money is going to help REAL people become parents. How incredible is that? The scholarship recipients have been announced on the AGC Scholarship Foundation Facebook page. If you want to see how the generous donations were used, please check it out. And, you don’t have to wait for the next gala to donate. Please see their website, and check out their Facebook page to see items currently being raffled for the Falmouth Road Race.

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Then, something amazing happened. Fertility Centers of New England donated a complete IVF cycle to the AGC Scholarship Foundation! For anyone who has gone through an IVF cycle, you know what an incredible gift this is. So, the foundation put together the “Face of Hope” contest. To see the winners’ submission please click here.

The night was capped off with a little dancing, and more cocktails. My friends TORE up the dance floor, and everyone was relaxed and having a good time. Speaking of my friends, can we just talk about my amazing support system for a second? Look at these beautiful family members and friends who came out (below). In five years of dealing with infertility, I have never felt so supported, and never felt so connected. When you go through infertility, you feel alone. Even when you have an AMAZING group like this, you feel like people can’t possibly understand what you’re going through because they don’t understand how all-consuming the whole thing is. I think after enjoying the gala together, a greater understanding has been reached about the commitment to treatment it takes to be successful through this journey, and that’s something I feel wonderful about. It’s hard to explain when you need to miss important life events because you have no control over your body’s calendar. The people in attendance certainly understand that now, and for that I am so grateful.

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Though this year is going to be hard to top, I hope to see you next year at the Gala. Even if you are not directly impacted by infertility, you likely know 1 in 8 who are. Many couples struggle silently, as there is still such a stigma associated with the disease. Whether or not you know anyone effected, it is a lovely, inspirational evening where you get to put on your fancy pants, let loose on the dance floor, and support an amazing cause. Below is a collage of pictures from the evening; enjoy!

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