Tuesday, October 22, 2013 12:03 PM

A night to celebrate the man with a mission

The Lairds’ Gift donor-investor appreciation reception and tribute to Brian Laird was a night to remember – no one wanted to leave!

For those of you who may not know, Brian was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in 2009 and made it his mission to make lives a little easier for families in the Central Valley affected by neurological diseases, through the Lairds’ Gift

The Laird family in front of the new sign that was installed to honor Brian and inform others about the Lairds' Gift. Pictured left to right: Chris, Abby, Jill, Ellie and Matt.

I had a pleasure of having Brian as one of my dearest friends and the privilege of facilitating his efforts, along with his family and a close group of friends, to raise funds for the Central California Neuroscience Institute at Community Regional Medical Center. Brian’s family and friends would hold weekly meetings around the dinner table to find ways to get the word out, which was not only a fun social gathering, but also an effective strategy session. The goal was to raise $1 million.

Since Brian’s passing, exactly one year ago, we were able to gather again as family and friends to remember Brian and thank those who participated in supporting The Lairds’ Gift.

The crowd was awesome and really enjoyed one another, which made it feel like you were at a Laird family reunion. Folks from Michigan, Texas, Georgia and even Canada flew in just for this. The event was designed with Brian in mind. His wife Jill noticed all the small details that Brian would have loved from the Hawaiian print drapes and sunflower décor, to the bite sized comfort foods – meatloaf, potatoes and sliders and ending with ice cream for dessert, which was a staple at the weekly meetings where everybody grabbed a spoon and helped themselves to the carton.

There was a small program given by some people who knew Brian. I first started by sharing some of my interactions with him at our gatherings and how he wanted to provide a way for people to receive the care they needed without having to travel out of the Valley. Brian welcomed everyone and had the personality that could bring everyone together.  I knew with Brian leading it, we could accomplish this.

Dr. Jeffrey Rosenfeld was the doctor who took care of Brian, he spoke about how he never had a patient quite like Brian. He said Brian would ask him; “so Doc, what can I do for you?” which seldom happens to a doctor.

Son Chis showing his Hawaiian print heart as a way to keep his dad close.

The last speaker was Brian’s oldest son, Chris, who was humbled by the people around him. He talked about how we all miss him and cannot forget him, but we will be ok – and people with neurological diseases will be a little better because of Brian. He showed how he had sewn a Hawaiian print heart from one of their dad’s shirts into his suit coat as a way to always keep dad close to his heart.

After the program, I had the family join me and we unveiled a beautiful sign with a photo of Brian and Jill that we installed to commemorate Brian and tell all who view it about the Lairds’ Gift. The message that is written on it is just right and will be seen by many for years to come.

I want to extend a big thank you to the Laird family and all who showed their support for such a great cause and to honor a great man’s mission. We have raised just over $850,000 to date.

Katie Zenovich
Executive Director, Foundation