An estimated 720 people crammed the ballroom at The Venetian in Garfield, New Jersey, on Oct. 30 for the sixth annual Jillian Fund Gala. Dealers, manufacturers, suppliers and other providers throughout the industry network joined friends and families of those who have benefitted from The Jillian Fund and its mission to provide resources for the families of seriously ill children who desire to spend time with their loved ones.
According to Bill McLaughlin, CTO for Atlantic, Tomorrow’s Office and chairman of The Jillian Fund, the sixth annual gala continues to fuel a charity that so far has raised more than $2 million, which has helped 187 families reconcile their finances, pay for food and lodging, address mortgage and utility bills, along with other expenses. The funding enables parents to be bedside with their children at Hackensack Meridian Health Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital.
This year’s gala included a silent auction, casino night and a haunted house, along with a raffle for a Harley-Davidson Iron 883 motorcycle, donated by Clover Imaging Group. All told, the benefit raised more than $470,000 for The Jillian Fund.
McLaughlin was heartened by the universal showing of support from the industry at large, a groundswell which continues to grow. “When you get a large amount of people together for a great cause, good things happen,” he said. “This industry and everybody involved in it is generous and willing to give back. There’s not enough good in the world today, but this is one of those good things.
“When we first started, we never, ever imagined that it would get this big. But when you get behind a good cause and get good people involved, that’s when the magic happens. So many people want to help, and every year the family continues to grow and grow.”
From Tragedy to Triumph
McLaughlin and Ricoh’s George Gorman led the team that created The Jillian Fund in the summer of 2013. In 2009, Gorman’s daughter, Jillian, was diagnosed with a rare cancer of the blood and bone marrow, acute myeloid leukemia. In a span of three-plus years, she endured chemotherapy, three bone marrow transplants, a kidney transplant, two full years of dialysis and lengthy hospital stays. But in March of 2013, Jillian lost her battle.
During this time, George Gorman divided his time between work and hospital visits. But even in his grief, Gorman had the clarity to sympathize with other fathers and parents who do not have the resources necessary to devote the appropriate attention to their sick children. The day-to-day needs of running a household do not disappear in the face of an ongoing life event, and he felt parents should not have to weigh those responsibilities against spending precious time with a sick child.
During the evening’s brief presentation portion, videos and in-person testimonies were given by the families and some of the children who survived health ordeals, who came to thank The Jillian Fund for making their journeys a lot less taxing. The Patriot Pack, a group of motorcycle enthusiasts who each year make “The Ride,” an 11-day cross-country trek—came onstage and serenaded Jillian. The Ride raised $100,000 for The Jillian Fund.
Above all, the night’s festivities gave attendees the opportunity to take pause and be appreciative of what is truly important in life.
“When you look around the room, you see so many competitors, manufacturers, leasing companies, so many types of companies related to the industry. They come together under one roof for such a wonderful gala,” said Larry Weiss, president of Atlantic, Tomorrow’s Office. “We’re all very competitive on the field, but we all understand there’s a higher, better cause that we all work for. That’s what’s making this world a better place. We put aside what we do all day long, take off the shoulder pads and the equipment, and we get together to raise money for the less fortunate.”
Mike Marusic, president and CEO of Sharp Imaging and Information Company of America, echoed Weiss’ sentiments. “Tonight, we put everything aside and everyone’s joking with each other,” he said. “In my opinion, this is what is best about the industry, the ability to come together for such a worthwhile cause. For us, it’s a fun night to relax and raise money. But you don’t always think about a family’s burden when they have a sick child. They still need to take care of things. But they truly must focus on what’s really important, and that’s their loved ones.”