BY LEZLIE PATTERSON
Imagine being dared by Barry Manilow to sing “Copacabana,” by Suzanne Somers to work out beside her, or by the Chippendales to mimic their dance moves – all on stage in front of a crowd.
Those are a few of the dares that will be issued at the Take the Dare Live Auction, part of a fundraising extravaganza Saturday for Leeza’s Care Connection in Irmo.
Irmo native Leeza Gibbons is hosting the event, which include celebrity appearances – by video and in person – along with a Dare2Care Fair, a Health and Wellness Expo, a silent auction, a Kindness Movement dinner and the Take the Dare Live Auction.
“Dare2Care is more than a fundraiser; it is a movement that underscores our belief that there is strength in kindness and caring,” Gibbons said.
The event comes about a month after a large oak fell during a thunderstorm on the Leeza’s Care Connection house, in the former Irmo home of Michael J. Mungo at 201 St. Andrews Road. The tree caused heavy damage to the roof and forced the organization to temporarily move across the street to St. Mary’s Episcopal Church while repairs are under way.
Much will be going on during the Saturday event at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center, all designed to promote kindness, understanding, and fun while raising money for Leeza’s Care Connection.
The day begins with the four-hour free fair and health and wellness expo at 11 a.m., followed by the dinner and auctions from 5-8 p.m.
The fair will have food, games and activities for all ages, and is designed to have a nostalgic, throwback feel. “We wanted to make sure we were inclusive, that we reached across generations,” Gibbons said.
And she wanted it to be a gift to the community.
“Our thought was, let’s give something to get something,” Gibbons said. “We’re here for the long term. We want people to know we’re not always going to have our hand out. We’re here to offer our help.”
Gibbons created The Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation in 2002 as a promise to her mother to “tell her story and make it count” after her diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Leeza’s Care Connection, the signature program of The Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation, is a place for caregivers to go for support, to ask questions, find resources and connect with other caregivers.
When it came time to raise money, Gibbons wanted to do something that also positively impacted the community, and she knew that offering some “celebrity sizzle” would add interest.
“The whole idea is, how do you challenge someone to step up to the plate and show they care?” she said.
One visual way is by putting together a colorful wall that highlights acts of kindness in the Midlands.
“The idea is to create a movement of kindness,” said Marti Colucci, managing director of Leeza’s Care Connection. “We want it to be contagious in our community.”
Called the Mosaic of Kindness, the wall is a colorful way to remind everyone that the smallest acts of compassion make a difference. And when you add them all together, it can redefine a community.
At the event, four young people will introduce the wall and put the final brick in the mosaic. Folks from throughout the community have written simple acts of kindness on each brick like “drove neighbor to a doctor’s appointment,” “anonymously paid for someone’s dinner,” and “gave money to a young family.”
“Our way to get the conversation started is to dare our friends and neighbors to commit an act of kindness,” Gibbons said. “At the event, we will unveil more stories on how we have dared to care in the Midlands. That’s how we connect to each other.”
Gibbons wants the event to feel like friends are gathered for dinner and a game of charades. She will be there, along with local celebrities including Dawn Staley, Frank Martin, Ray Tanner, Joe Pinner, Tony Clyburn and Mary King. Several television stars will join Manilow and Somers via video, including Gary Sinise, Maria Shriver, Marie Osmond, Mario Lopez, Geraldo Rivera, Sharon Osbourne, Nancy O’Dell and Craig Melvin.
These celebrities will be “daring” audience members to do certain feats to show they care. The dares will range from the fun and silly, such as Lopez challenging folks to don boxing gloves, to the serious, such as Sinise challenging folks to stand up and show support and respect for veterans and Shriver charging everyone to work toward creating a world without Alzheimer’s.
Martin and Tanner will square off against each other, but in what is a secret to be revealed Saturday.
By the end of the day, Gibbons hopes folks will be reminded of what matters most, as they have fun and help raise money so Leeza’s Care Connection can continue its mission.
“We’ve tried to encompass everyone, from kids to seniors,” Colucci said. “We wanted to have it somewhere convenient, and wanted to do something that appeals to everyone. A whole family affair.”