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Column: Patriots Dinner in June will honor wounded warriors

By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on April 18, 2014

The black-tie dinner will be held at the Georgia Aquarium, and it will include U.S. Sens. Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson as well as Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.

In addition to the Medal of Honor recipients, other special guests will include Bernie Marcus, a philanthropist who contributed the Georgia Aquarium and was co-founder of The Home Depot Inc.; and Alana Shepherd, co-founder of the Shepherd Center. Music will be provided by Grammy winner Earl Klugh.

The inspiration for the Patriots Dinner came from the Hospitality Business Network Foundation, which historically was affiliated with the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau and organized golf outings and networking events. It recently struck out on its own and became its own nonprofit organization, according to retired marketing executive Clisby Clarke, who is chairing the board.

The Network then decided it was also time to rejuvenate and focus its mission so it could have a greater philanthropic impact.

“We decided a new charity – Wounded Warriors – would be a wonderful organization to be involved with,” Clarke said. “When we had the idea of honoring Medal of Honor recipients, the whole thing just pretty much exploded. We decided that in 2014 we would donate a large part of our funds to the Shepherd Center and its SHARE program.”

The SHARE Military Initiative provides a continuum of rehabilitation care for soldiers who have sustained a spinal cord or traumatic brain injury while serving on active duty in Iraq or Afghanistan. The program treats eight to 12 individuals at a time with an average stay of three months. Shepherd is the only rehab facility in the country to develop a dedicated and separate military patient program. Patients receive their care at no cost to them or their families, but the hospital must raise $90,000 each month to keep the program running.

The dinner also will benefit the Navy Safe Harbor Foundation to a lesser extent.

Retired ACVB executive W.B. Baldwin is serving as the top executive of the Hospitality Business Network Foundation, and his former ACVB colleague Judy Claxton also has come out of retirement to help.

“We already have 400 reservations for the dinner,” Claxton said, adding that they expect all 750 tickets to be sold well in advance of June 1.

“This is going to be a fantastic event,” Clarke said. “It will be a night to remember.”

Remembering Tami Willadsen

The Earth giveth and the Earth taketh away.

As chair of EarthShare of Georgia, Tami Willadsen was supposed to emcee the Earth Day Leadership Breakfast April 16 at the Georgia Aquarium. She was director of philanthropy for the Nature Conservancy’s Georgia chapter and she was a passionate environmentalist.

Tragically, Tami Willadsen and her 10-year-old daughter died over the weekend when their Avondale home went up in flames. Their deaths spread deep sorrow throughout Georgia’s environmental community during the very month when they usually are celebrating the beauty of the Earth.

“Those of us who knew Tami are still trying to get our minds around this reality,” said Michael Halicki, vice chairman of EarthShare of Georgia, who stepped in to fill Willadsen’s role on the program.

“All of this brings me back to our desire to dedicate today’s Leadership Breakfast to the memory of Tami Willadsen,” Halicki said. “I’ve heard it said that ‘a life is never ended until all the lives it has touched have ended too.’ With this in mind, Tami’s life goes on in each of us who are inspired by her example.”

EarthShare awards

EarthShare, which operates much like a United Way for environmental organizations, celebrated some of its top business partners at the April 16 breakfast.

Kaiser Permanente, the presenting sponsor for the breakfast, has become EarthShare’s top private partner in the state, and its workplace contributions continue to show dramatic increase.

In 2012, Kaiser employees pledged $78,607, while for the 2013 campaign, they pledged $123,523 — an increase of 57 percent. It has had a workplace giving campaign since 2004. As a result, Kaiser received the 2014 Outstanding Campaign Partner award. Madeline Reamy, executive director of EarthShare of Georgia, also announced that Burr & Forman LLP is its newest private-sector campaign partner.

EarthShare also awarded Turner Broadcasting System as its 2014 Outstanding Community Partner; the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper received the 2014 Outstanding Member Organization award; and the 2014 Corporate Green Day Challenge Winner went to The Coca-Cola Co.

College Football Hall of Fame

The College Football Hall of Fame is putting its executive team in place as it gets ready to open in less than five months.

The attraction is currently under construction next to the Georgia World Congress Center across from Centennial Olympic Park. It is set to open in August.

The new team members will join John Stephenson, president and CEO; John Christie, executive vice president and chief operating officer; and Brad Olecki, vice president of business development and sales.

The new hires are Mark Petersen, vice president of finance and administration; Marcus Margerum, vice president of marketing and communications; Matt Lynch, vice president of fan experience; Shawn Teske, vice president of operations and infrastructure; and Mike Bilbow, vice president of content and production.

El Día de los Niños

For Quality Care for Children, every day of the year is a day to celebrate children.

But on April 24, the nonprofit is inviting the whole state to be part of its eighth annual El Día de los Niños at Ventanas in downtown Atlanta.

The celebration is Quality Care for Children’s largest annual fundraiser, and its proceeds directly benefit the organization’s summer food program, which provides nutritious meals and snacks to school-age children during the summer months. The nonprofit has raised more than $725,000 over the past seven years. “The experiences that happen in the first few years of life are some of the most important as more than 90 percent of brain development occurs before age 3,” said Pam Tatum, president and CEO. “Without proper nutrition and loving care, children in these situations develop slower than their peers.”

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


1 Comment

  1. Coast Guard Vet April 28, 2014 11:35 am

    I am reading this and just wanted to know if this new organization is the same that I personally have found to be such a questionable organization (read link attached from Veterans Today)? I also ask the reader to feel free to do an additional search on the level of corruption with these organizations that gain national attention that turn out to be money making scams that exploit the veteran situation. As a service connected disabled veteran I am so alarmed by the exploitation of veterans in money making scams. I also question the creation of a ‘new charity’. This is a disturbing trend as I continue to read about (and learn about first hand), on how the few legitimate non-profits that do real work for veterans are muscled out by these ‘new’, trendy, highly funded initiatives. Not saying this is one of those. But, I do look at this with a lot of questions. In particular when I see a quote like this:
    “We decided a new charity – Wounded Warriors”



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