By Christopher Grandlienard
The event was called the Travis Grandlienard Luau for the Spondylitis Cure. It was held October 1, 2016 at the Sacred Lands waterfront facility in St. Petersburg, Florida.
The event was in the memory of my brother Travis Grandlienard who had a courageous personal battle over Anklosing Spondylitis. Travis passed away from AS April 4, 2014 at the age of 28.
Travis visiting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I struggled with his death for many years, trying to figure a way to continue his legacy. I got involved with the Spondylitis Association and met other patients at the Bradenton support group . It helped a great deal to also hear their stories about the condition that afflicted them. I learned that my brother's AS was incredibly severe and that most people that have it live long and productive lives. I have to tell you that I had mixed feelings about that. I was glad most people survive and thrive, however, I was angry that my brother did not get the chance at life most AS patients get. Perhaps it was because Travis did not get involved with the Spondylitis Association. There were no support groups at the time. I know these groups would have made the difference for him. In any case, his condition was atypical and god called him home...
My wife Therese has danced professional belly dancing and Polynesian for many years and gave me an idea to raise money for the Spondylitis Association through a charity benefit in my brother's name. Through my local Knights of Columbus council and the McGivney Foundation I was able to organize the luau with Therese's friends helping in putting on a show. The event got larger and larger as more of Therese's friends helped out. Also I was fortunate enough to secure a wonderful facility near the waterfront called Sacred Lands that gave me a discounted rate. Food was provided by Dickie's BBQ and I also was given a discounted rate. To raise additional funds, I was able to secure a large assortment of silent auction prizes from many businesses such as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tampa Bay Lightning and the Tampa Bay Rays. One KofC member provided a beach hotel room for the auction, as well.
The day of the event we decorated the outside area with Hawaiian decorations and played luau music. I even brought a standee with my brother's picture to the event in his memory.
Each ticket was $30 and included a full course BBQ dinner, nonalcoholic beverages and dessert. For entertainment, the guests were dazzled by Polynesian and fire dancing provided by my wife Therese and her friends. The family friendly event was attended by approximately 60 people. I was able to educate many of them about AS and told them about my brother. The event was a real catharsis for me as it provided an outlet for the legacy of my brother Travis.
In the end, we raised $2206 in profits after food, venue and entertainment costs. Our volunteers, dancers, friends and family all made this fantastic event possible. My wife Therese especially made this event possible with her hard work. We learned a great deal from this event about how hard and rewarding it is to pull off. I know my brother Travis would be proud of us all for doing this in his name.
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