Party to the Max – A Night of Big Dreams!

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Nearly 300 friends, corporate partners and special guests packed the Four Seasons Hotel for Party to the Max: DREAM BIG on Saturday, September 15, to support the important work of the Starkloff Disability Institute.

Event sponsors were given glowing star necklaces upon entering the cocktail reception, which they donned throughout the night.  Starkloff Career Academy graduates and Dream Big families also received special silver-star necklaces. The biggest and brightest stars of the night were worn by Presenting Sponsor, The Centene Charitable Foundation.

The cocktails and hors d’oeuvres reception, sponsored by Ogletree Deakins, featured music by jazz duo Bon Bon Plot and the signature “Golden Dreams” drink.  Chimes signaled the mixing and mingling guests to take their places for a delicious three-course dinner in the ballroom.

A warm video message from Honorary Chair Bob Costas played as guests took their seats.  Legendary St. Louis television personality Karen Foss was the Mistress of Ceremonies of this star-studded event.

David Newburger presented SDI’s Open Door Award for Universal Design to the Gateway Arch Foundation and National Park Service for their efforts to ensure visitors with disabilities are welcomed at the St. Louis monument.

After the scrumptious dinner was served, Special Guest Mandy Harvey made a keynote performance. Thrust onto the national stage by her performance on America’s Got Talent, Mandy is a deaf singer-songwriter and an advocate for all people with disabilities to reach for their dreams. After a moving speech, Mandy sand three songs and played her ukulele. She taught the audience how to sign along with her last song, “What a Wonderful World.”

SDI’s Sarah Schwegel, who runs the Dream Big program, took the stage to introduce a video about Dream Big program. Click here to watch this inspiring video about Dream Big.

SDI Board Member and St. Louis celeb Ray Hartmann then took stage to conduct the Fund the Dream paddle auction. Moved by an inspiring and important program, guests at Party to the Max raised a record-breaking $60,000 in Fund the Dream!

SDI Founder Colleen Starkloff commanded one of the most moving moments of the night. She presented the Max J. Starkloff Lifetime Achievement Award to Robert H. Graebe, inventor of the ROHO cushion, a life-saving device for millions of people with disabilities around the world – including Max J. Starkloff himself. Colleen, Max, and Bob have decades of friendship, support and respect for each others’ work, which made this tribute to him so meaningful. Click here to watch the tribute video shared that night.

Mr. Graebe took the stage to accept his award, but had few words to express his gratitude. “Max was the visionary. I just wanted to solve a problem,” said an emotional Bob, as he and Colleen embraced.

Karen Foss expressed deep emotion as she took the podium follow Mr. Graebe’s tribute. She shared that her brother, who had become quadriplegic after an accident when he was younger, had also benefited from one of Mr. Graebe’s ROHO cushions. But it was not just her brother who benefited, it was he and her family who got to spend more time with him because his life was extended; he had a good quality of life and was able to be with them. Karen’s personal and unexpected testimony made the evening even more special.

Guests adjourned the ballroom to an after-party and late-night snack reception presented by the Starkloff Disability Institute Young friends with music by the Charlie Mann Band.

The presenting sponsor of the evening was Centene Charitable Foundation. Carol and Peter Benoist, Nestle Purina and Permobil Foundation were the Silver sponsors.

The Bronze sponsors were Bayer, Bi-State Development, Boeing, T. Danis Charitable Trust, Board Chair Steve Degnen, Edward Jones, Emerson, Enterprise Holdings, Express Scripts, Mrs. Harriet Felman, Maryville University, Ogletree Deakins and Ms. Trudy Busch Valentine.

The Patrons of the event were Mr. and Mrs. Ed Barnidge, Ms. Kimberly Becker, Mr. Barry T. Cervantes, Mr. Robert Concannon Jr., Dr. William Danforth, Mrs. Joseph L. Gleason, Dr. and Mrs. Duane Hagen, Ms. Christy Franchot James and Mr. Alan Wheeler, Mr. Joseph and Mrs. Suzanne McGauley, Hon. Mary Ann Medler and Mr. William Corrington, Donna Moog and Lenny Landsbaum, Mr. and Mrs. Ned O. Lemkemeier*, Ms. Ann Liberman, Ms. Nancy Kalishman, Ms. Susan Lewis, Mr. Tom Ott and Mr. Steve Koehler, Mr. Trent Barnes Phelps, Dr. Jean and Mr. William Wasko.

*Members of the Board of Directors

Special thanks to Bruce Burton, Graphic Designer; Mind’s Eye, Audio Description; Jim Schnurbusch, Org Story; Shelby Nobles, Event Volunteer; Paul Crane, Videographer; Good Sport Captioning; and Signing Edge, ASL Interpreters.  To see our photo gallery of the evening, click here. 

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