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Feature

White Knight

May 3, 2016

KIDSgala helps children with life-altering experiences.

By Susan Peck
Photos Courtesy of Laurie Tennet Studio

David C. McKnight, owner of Emerald City Designs in Farmington Hills, makes his living helping people plan and celebrate life’s special events. When Nicole Marie Burton, the daughter of his childhood friend, was courageously fighting her battle with leukemia, he wanted to do something extra special for her.

Nicole was David’s inspiration to start KIDSgala in 2013.

“KIDSgala now provides celebrations for children who are battling life-altering experiences; but, most importantly, in the midst of their tremendous challenges, it gives them the gift of a special time to enjoy just being a kid,” McKnight said.  

The Townsend Hotel in Birmingham will host the foundation’s third annual White Party — its largest fundraiser for the support of the children’s celebrations — from 7 p.m. to midnight Friday, June 17. The evening emcee, WXYZ entertainment reporter Erin Nicole, will keep the night rolling; the event includes heavy hors d’oeuvres, open bar, sweet treats and entertainment provided by DJ LoKey and TapSnap Phototainment.

There will be live and silent auctions of stellar items including a five-night stay at a one-bedroom Disney property villa or three-night stay at a two-bedroom, with a choice of 10 properties; also, two tickets to one of the hottest talk shows in Los Angeles.

“Every year, the White Party grows bigger than the year before,” McKnight said. “It’s a beautiful, angelic and ethereal night with everyone wearing white and bringing their generous hearts. I’m so overwhelmed and grateful for the support we have received from the community.

“This year’s honorary chairs are Peter and Danialle Karmanos, and our event chair is Carrie Slominski. Event sponsor is Charity Motors and supporters are Emerald City Designs and Neighborhood SEEN, and a huge supportive group that comes together to makes this a huge success.”

Since late 2013, McKnight and the board of directors have raised thousands of dollars with fundraising events and, in 2014, KIDSgala started gifting “celebration of life” parties to children. With the help of generous sponsors, donations and volunteers, KIDSgala continues to grow.

Celebration of Life

The KIDSgala celebrations are given to a selected group of kids each year and are fantasy dream parties created especially for them. Each child’s life achievements are celebrated in a memorable and inspiring way. The celebrations are funded by the annual White Party, which helps raise awareness and brings to the forefront the daily challenges these children face. Children who have been diagnosed with or are currently battling a life-
altering event can be nominated on the KIDSgala website.

One of last year’s recipients, 13-year-old Eric Osaer, had a “Minecraft Madness” event for family and friends at GameStart in Ann Arbor. The evening included Eric’s favorite treat — cotton candy — and an opportunity for guests to capture fun memories and personalize photos in the Shutterbooth. Eric suffers from Eosinophilic esophagitis, an immune disorder that causes his white blood cells to attack the digestive system and his blood.

“We couldn’t do what we do for these extraordinary children without the passionate group that makes up KIDSgala,” McKnight said.

Current board members are Deanna Alfredo, Kimberly Britt, Lindsey Dogonski, Kate Greane, Marianne Tappy, Mary Wolfgram and Carrie Slominski, who has been newly appointed as vice president. The treasurer is Dorothy Kinnunen; secretary is Kathleen Reid; and counsel to the board is Sandra Hughes O’Brien. “They’re truly a miraculous team,” McKnight said.

To connect with KIDSgala for a celebration event, any family or social worker with a child who identifies with the mission of the foundation can apply. They do request the following criteria be met:

• The child should be between the ages of 3-16 at the time of the celebration.

• The child must have or is battling a life-altering event.

• Written approval from primary care physician that clears child to attend the event.

• Must be accompanied to the event by parent, legal guardian and/or social worker. 

• Must provide own transportation to and from celebration event. 

• Must reside in Wayne, Oakland, Livingston, Macomb or Washtenaw counties.

• Limit celebration attendees to no more than 50 guests, including the child.

• Referral letter from child’s social worker.

“I named my special event company Emerald City Designs, a nod to The Wizard of Oz, because I wanted to be the man behind the curtain making creative visions and wishes come true,” McKnight said. “But making wishes and dreams come true for the special children we reach through KIDSgala is the greatest honor of all.”  NS

Get Your Tickets Now

To attend the KIDSgala White Party on June 17, go online to www.KIDSgala.org to purchase tickets for $125 each.
For overnight accommodations at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham, mention KIDSgala for a discounted rate of $265. (townsendhotel.com; 248-642-7900)

For more information about KIDSgala, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, or the White Party, contact David C. McKnight, PO Box 336, Northville, MI 48167; Carrie Slominski, event chair, at (248) 886-0631 or CarrieS@KIDSgala.org; or online at www.KIDSgala.org.

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