Like so many other events this year, the 10th annual White Coat Affair is going to be a very different. Rather than gathering in Boston for a classy and inspiring evening of drinks, speeches, music, and glowsticks, the gala will take place virtually on October 16th. Although we won’t be together, all of these elements will still be present, as well as the most important factor – the ALS community brought together by this event.
For those who have never been, the White Coat Affair is an annual gala that celebrates the ALS community and the progress of ALS research, while raising crucial funds for research at the ALS Therapy Development Institute (ALS TDI). It features a program of moving speeches from people in the ALS community, updates on the latest science from ALS TDI researchers, as well as music, drinks, dinner and dancing.
For 2020, from the comfort and safety of their own homes, guests will be able to socialize while sipping their beverage of choice for a virtual cocktail hour and then enjoy a home cooked or take-out meal while watching the speeches during the virtual dinner program.
While the larger community can’t come together physically this year, at least two longtime supporters of ALS TDI, and regular WCA attendees will be going to great lengths to safely join together. When the time for the WCA comes this fall, Jenny Dwyer will travel from Seattle to Chicago to meet her friend Deb Paust to dress up, pour some drinks, and log on to this year’s virtual gala.
Jenny and Deb met through a shared connection to tragedy – Deb’s husband Tim and Jenny’s husband Pat both passed away from ALS. In the years since, they have both become activists and fundraisers working to end the disease, while striking up a close friendship.
“This is a really a unique community,” says Deb. “You can just meet someone and know that they've had their lives touched by ALS, and there's this automatic connection.”
Both Deb and Jenny remember the White Coat Affair as an inspirational introduction to the ALS community – both a powerful night of learning and an opportunity to hear stories and meet others affected by the disease.
“There was a lot of information and learning,” says Jenny of her first trip to the WCA. “I remember the first time I walked into the lab. It was incredible because there were these people, these wonderful scientists who were working 24/7 on trying to find a treatment for people with ALS, and specifically for my husband. I will say I did wake up with a hangover the next day. It was just a great event. You're surrounded by love, and in the midst of a horrible disease, you've just got these great people that support you.”
Over the years they both came to look forward to the White Coat Affair both as an opportunity support the research they believe in at ALS TDI, keep up with friends, and meet new ones from the community. With the event going virtual in 2020, they knew that, even though they’d be able to be together online, it just wouldn’t be the same without seeing each other in person.
“We were very disappointed, but understood why it has to be remote,” says Deb. “But we really look forward to being together and seeing each other at least once a year. So, it was Jenny's idea to come.”
While they’ll be connecting with the rest of the community remotely, Deb and Jenny will do their best to recreate the feeling of the White Coat Affair for two in Deb’s home near Chicago.
“We're going get all dressed up. We're going to look really pretty,” says Deb “We're going to have some glow sticks, we talked about maybe getting some lobster rolls to make it feel like Boston. We're just going to try to make it special.”
All members of the ALS community are invited and encouraged to attend the 2020 virtual White Coat Affair, and to help raise vital funds to move research forward and end ALS.
The virtual White Coat Affair will take place on Friday, October 16, from 7:00pm-9:00pm EST. To learn more and buy tickets, click here.