If you spend any time in the meetings and events industry, it's obvious that it is a female-dominated profession. Even volunteer committees for events tend to have a heavy dose of progesterone. The Men for the Cure Foundation's 10th annual Gentlemen's Dinner is an exception to this phenomenon and a first-rate example of what happens when a group of men have a passion for a cause.
The Men for the Cure Foundation was established in 2000 when Jeff Thompson sought to honor the memory of his wife, Diane, who lost her battle with breast cancer on Thanksgiving Day 1999. Several of Jeff's friends from the Red Meat & Cigar Club, a professional networking group, lent him a hand and launched the Gentlemen's Dinner to support patient care and research at what is now known as the Diane O'Connor Thompson Breast Center at the University of Colorado Hospital, a tribute to the significant financial contribution made by the foundation to date.
This was their way of helping the battle against a medical tragedy that has claimed the lives of wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, colleagues and friends.
Behind most great events is a skilled planner. Nancy Lamb Thompson, an independent planner and Colorado Meetings + Events 2009 Hall of Fame inductee, is known for her prowess in organizing nonprofit fund-raisers and accepted the challenge to help this group, which has read like a Denver "Who's Who" roll call over the years. The event cofounders are Ed Greene and Sharon Magness Blake.
Lamb Thompson's heartstrings also had been pulled hard by her mother's death from breast cancer. "I like the whole idea of men coming together to raise money for this cause," she says, noting that the event also introduced her to Jeff, who is now her husband. "There are not a lot of events in town that are all men. The committee is 99 percent male, with a few women helping with the silent auction."
One of the major issues that faces all nonprofit fund-raisers is delivering an event that people want to attend but also directs the maximum amount of profits possible to the cause. There are no decorations or centerpieces at the Gentlemen's Dinner, and longtime supporter Larry DiPasquale, CEO and managing partner of Epicurean Culinary Group, has secured in-kind donations from his vendors such as succulent beef tenderloins and a huge seafood bar.
Other vendors such as Event Rents, CEAVCO Audio Visual Company, Auction & Event Solutions and photographer William Thach also have played a key role with their services and several businesses and individuals have contributed silent auction items.
"I also have been able to use my connections to secure media coverage and speakers, sell tables and tickets and find resources to provide goodie bags," she says.
The event has hit the $1.2 million fund-raising mark, selling $250 tickets and earning its following one man at a time.
Another challenge is that the foundation does not have a staff. "We get a lot of support from our family, I pull in some of my part-timers and we have great volunteers," she says.
The event venues have been diverse, ranging from the Sleeper House on Lookout Mountain and INVESCO Field at Mile High to Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum and XJet World, a private jet club at Centennial Airport. This year, the dinner returns to Xjet, with cocktails, appetizers and cigars served on the tarmac. A four-course seated dinner is prepared and served by Epicurean Culinary Group and always includes beef.
This year's keynote is Rod Smith, former star wide receiver for the Denver Broncos. Past speakers have included the likes of Harry Smith, Mike Shanahan, Goose Gossage and Rick Reilly. Honorary chairs such as businessman and former Denver Broncos Quarterback John Elway and Gov. Bill Ritter, local mayors and a handful of other well-known local figures have given their stamp of approval to the event. When this story was written, the list of 2009 honorary chairs had not been finalized.
"There is nothing fancy about this event but it is one of the larger nonprofit fund-raisers in the Denver area," Lamb Thompson notes.
What happens when a few good men get together to help a friend? They throw a great party that is truly making a difference to the lives of many women.
Just the Facts:
>> 10th Annual Gentlemen's Dinner
>> Men for the Cure Foundation
>> October 1, 2009
>> 5:30 p.m. cocktails, cigar salon & silent auction, 7:00 p.m. dinner, program & live auction
>> XJet World, Private Jet Club at the Centennial Airport, Englewood
>> Rod Smith, former Denver Bronco Wide Receiver
Men for the Cure Foundation // 303.367.1367
Photo courtesy of William Thach.