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We’re Bringing Back the Society of Chairs Gala — With a Frontdoors Twist
By Tom Evans, Contributing Editor
This is a story of the junction of tragedy and opportunity, of a series of events so oddly concurrent that they fell into place seemingly as if guided by a higher purpose.
First, the big announcement is this: Frontdoors Media has reached an agreement to produce the Society of Chairs Gala, and we’ll be hosting the newly relaunched event this May at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa. The invitations will drop in the next couple of weeks to those who chaired charity events in the community this past fall and spring season, as well as select civic and business leaders.
We’re incredibly excited to make this announcement and grateful to Deborah Bateman, Vice Chairman of the National Bank of Arizona Board of Directors and the bank itself for making this possible, as well as the Westin Kierland for agreeing to host the event.
Bateman is the event Chairwoman and Linda Herold is the the Honorary Chairwoman. Proceeds from the Society of Chairs Gala will benefit a new charitable foundation we’re establishing, which I’ll tell you about shortly.
Now, the backstory.
When Andrea and I acquired Frontdoors early in 2017, we started kicking around the general concept of having a signature event that would benefit a foundation we would establish as the charitable arm of Frontdoors. We really had no idea what that might look like, and what the foundation might benefit. It was just kind of hanging out there, a thing on our to-do lists, waiting for us to get to it eventually as we did everything else we do on a day-to-day basis.
Then, tragedy struck. Our beloved friend Mike Saucier, the first editor of Frontdoors under our ownership, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Mike fought a brief battle against the disease, but we lost him on November 1, 2017. I don’t need to re-state how heartbroken we were — still are — and how much we miss him every day.
When Mike died, we offered to help out his wife Fernanda by setting up a memorial fund. We weren’t sure what it would go toward, we just knew people wanted to give. Fernanda said Mike would have wanted to help young people become writers — especially young first-generation college students — so we filed that in the back of our minds and went on with our grieving.
At around the same time Mike got sick, Deborah Bateman reached out to Andrea with an intriguing question — would Frontdoors be interested in producing the next Society of Chairs Gala, the rights to which National Bank of Arizona has had for the past few years after taking the event over from founder Linda Herold.
Of course we were humbled and honored by the opportunity. We thought it would be a perfect fit for Frontdoors — after all, so much of what we do centers around the charities in our community and the work they fund through events. And after drawing up all the necessary paperwork, we had an agreement.
So, here we are.
We have a purpose — a gift Mike left us in his passing — to help first-generation college students find their voice, and to help fight the dreadful disease that robbed us of his presence.
We have a memorial fund — which was the recipient of thousands of dollars in generous contributions from dozens of Mike’s friends, family and colleagues.
And now, we have an event, one that can help us raise money for the cause on a consistent basis well into the future.
Put it all together, and here’s what you have: Frontdoors Media is proud to bring back the Society of Chairs Gala, with proceeds from the event to benefit the new foundation we’re setting up to include the contributions to Mike’s memorial fund.
It will be called The Sauce Foundation, and it will fund pancreatic cancer research as well as scholarships in Mike’s honor for students at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.
And yes, Fernanda is part of it — she’s one of the three board members for the foundation, along with Andrea and I. But not only that, she’ll see the scholarship students grow and be able to personally help them become exceptional writers, just like both she and Mike. Fernanda is now on the faculty at Cronkite, where she will get to teach the recipients of the scholarships provided in her late husband’s memory.
One of the best pieces of advice I received during my grieving over Mike’s death was to try to find ways to carry on his memory and impact. We’ve already dedicated this publication and all it does to Mike in perpetuity. Now, we can take it a step further, by both fighting the terrible disease that took his life and creating an entire generation of Mike Sauciers — kind, thoughtful storytellers with a love of community, friends and family.
Mike may be gone, but through The Sauce Foundation and with the support of our community, we have an opportunity to ensure his impact in the future will be extraordinary. And we’ll get to celebrate that impact and his memory at the Society of Chairs Gala, this year and every year moving forward.
We hope to see you there in May. It’s going to be great.