Vines for Life: Connecting the Causes
The Indianapolis Yacht Club will host the 3rd Annual Vines for Life – Connecting the Causes on February 22. Elite Beverages will provide unique wines for the evening, giving attendees an opportunity to sample over 60 wines from around the world including: Great Cabernets from Napa Valley, Elegant Champagnes from France, robust reds from Italy, lively whites from New Zealand and the list goes on. New this year will be a Craft Beer Tasting area. This local event has evolved over the years to be one of the main fund raisers for three local cancer charities: Creating Hope, Indy SurviveOars, and Team Luke.
Most of the time, we go to an event like this not knowing how it all started. So this is the back story of Vines for Life I thought you might enjoy.
After an interview with John and Tina Gianfagna in 2004, atGeist.com Publisher Tom Britt came home and talked to his wife, Jeanne, about his interview.
“We need to help these people,” he said. “They just lost their daughter, Jeannette, to breast cancer last year and they are hosting a walk this fall in Windermere for her charity, Creating Hope.”
A feature story followed in the Geist Community Newsletter; more importantly the seed of friendship between the Britts and Gianfagnas was planted. Jeanne felt an immediate connection to the Gianfagnas’ mission having lost her own mother to cancer. In her mother’s last months, the time she most enjoyed was time spent working with arts and crafts.
Tom and Jeanne concocted a plan to do a southern Indiana wine tour. With the help of the Gianfagnas, they hosted the first of three all-day bus tours of various southern Indiana wineries. “We had a great time on the tours, but it just wasn’t raising enough money to warrant the amount of time we were all putting into it,” said Tom.
“When you think at that moment that it is possible – then the MAGIC starts…”
After taking a year off, the notion of a wine tour evolved into a larger-scale wine tasting. Instead of touring Indiana wineries, why not bring global wineries to Geist and host a wine tasting at the iconic symbol of the area – The Indianapolis Yacht Club.
Ray Cox, owner of Elite Beverages, had supported various fund raisers in which Tom and Jeanne had been involved. The Britts invited Cox and Susan Cotter, a wine representative with a local distributor, to dinner at the Yacht Club to discuss the idea. “Before we could get the words ‘would you help’ out of our mouths, Ray and Susan had already committed to support the inaugural event,” said Tom.
The name “Vines for Life” came about when the discussion turned to the grape vines – a plant with a long, thin stem that grows along the ground or climbs up to support the grapes. Without the vine, wine could not be produced. Likewise, without community support, local cancer charities cannot thrive.
Before the dinner was over, the four had agreed to organize a charity event that would not only support Creating Hope, but also two other local cancer charities, Indy SurviveOars and Team Luke.
Jeanette Gianfagna Shamblen (36) was a breast cancer patient battling against all odds to survive. One day her sister, Diane, gave her a gift of paints, paper, and brushes. Even though she was not an artist, when she painted she felt better. This creative time was free from worries and pain. Drawing and painting gave her peace in a way she couldn’t quite explain. This feeling grew into an idea to share a message with other cancer patients to help them cope with cancer through self-expression and creativity … inspiring them to find a moment away from their pain and fears as they made their way through each day toward survival.
Jeanette didn’t win her battle with cancer, passing away on July 3, 2003. But she left Creating Hope in the loving care of her parents, John and Tina Gianfagna, who now work tirelessly to provide the free HOPE Kits to other cancer patients and families. They have become the spirit of delivering Jeanette’s wonderful gift to other cancer patients their daughter would never meet.
No one can go it alone. Somewhere along the line is that one person who gives you faith that you can make it …
Team Luke is the inspiration of one small little boy, who, at the age of three, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. During his grueling treatment, Luke Andritsch found comfort and healing while playing bongos.
As time went on, Luke realized that sharing the positive effects of rhythm, percussion, and musical expression – during and after treatment – was something he wanted to share with other kids who were sick.
“I want other kids to feel the way I feel when I play my music,” he said. Today, Luke has expanded his musical interests to include the drums and congas. In July of 2010, Luke finished his 3-1/2 years of treatment and has grown into a handsome guy wise beyond his years.
“When I was little, my dream was to work with Spiderman to find a cure for cancer. Then Spiderman and me would web ourselves hospital to hospital and pass out toys to all the sick children and make them all better. And then we would give all the kids the book, If You Give a Moose a Muffin,” he wrote at the age of six.
His parents, Vicky and Todd Andritsch, set it all in motion in 2008 when they established “Team Luke” as a way for Luke to give back to other children going through their cancer treatment. All the money they raise goes to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. What started as a number of friends raising money at local events has grown to include hundreds of supporters from multiple states.
What Luke is most proud of would have to be the Patient Well-Being Programs which also includes the families. Luke created the “RhythmPax – Feel the Cure!” kits which he hands out when he visits the kids at Riley Hospital. These healing kits include: a Kalimba (thumb piano); a kids’ DVD movie; rain sticks (which produce rain-like sounds); a Team Luke DVD in which Luke talks about the healing benefits of music; not-so-loud sound shakes; a drawing of an angel by Luke; and a lucky penny. The penny is included because Luke began collecting pennies found along the way on walks with his mom. Today, these gathered pennies have found a home covering the walls of their entire laundry room.
Without doubt, Luke belongs in the hero category, right along with Spiderman and Superman, because he lives the life of helping those who most need his vision of conquering their battles with cancer. Music was and is the driving, healing factor in Luke’s remarkable journey.
Isn’t faith believing all powers can’t be seen!
Dragon Boat Racing is often referred to as a floating support group for breast cancer patients and survivors. Indy SurviveOars is Indiana’s only breast cancer dragon boat racing team! Their name reflects their hometown connection and pays homage to the steer oarsperson who guides the dragon boat on its course. The breast cancer survivors train to paddle together, support each other, learn from one another, and overcome fear.
Dragon boat racing began over 2,000 years ago in China and eventually made its way to North America in the l980s. Now considered the fastest-growing team water sport in the world, it features sleek, slender boats decorated with dragon hands and propelled by 20 paddlers working in unison. The drummer beats out the pace, while a steer oarsperson guides the dragon boat on its course. The Indy SurviveOars dragon boat is 50 feet in length and carries several distinctions. The Indiana boat is the first pink dragon boat that boat manufacturer, Swift Dragon Boats of China, has ever made. The Indy boat’s head and tail are the first in the world to be custom-designed and painted pink, and it is estimated to be the 50th breast cancer team boat to launch in the U.S.
Kathy Martin Harrison did not have cancer when she decided to pitch in her oar to start this paddling group in 2007. The cause of support for women with breast cancer became the guiding light for those women who were in the race of their life.
Genie Barker, current President of Indy SurviveOars, is a six-year breast cancer survivor. “Today, our group supports about 60 active members and care-givers who paddle in the waters of Geist (Geist is the practice body of water for Indy SurviveOars). We participate in races across the United States and Canada, and took a first place win in June (2012) in Chicago,” she added with a big smile. “Our goal is to raise funds to support the growing number of women who would benefit from this sport. Being on the water and rowing forward is the essence of a journey together,” she added.
There are two dragon boats taken out for practice three times a week for seven months of the year. Boat repairs and providing safe equipment is necessary for the team’s existence. Currently, Community Regional Cancer Care, Community Health Network Foundation, Community Hospital Oncology Physicians Anuj Agarwala, Pablo Bedano, Sumeet Bhatia, and Radhika Walling are the team’s premier sponsors. It can be said that water is the healing body for supporting life. Indy SurviveOars certainly contributes to this thought.
After learning about this group and all they do together, the lyrics of “Row, row, row your boat” should present a new, special meaning!
So now you know a little bit about how Vines for Life began – from the humble beginnings of a few friends and families riding together on a bus to taste Indiana wines, to the front door of the Yacht Club to celebrate and support life. This proves that when people gather for the cause of one another, something wonderful happens!
Date: Friday, February 22, 2013
Place: Indianapolis Yacht Club
Time: 7-10 p.m. (Wine Tasting and Silent Auction end at 9 p.m.)
Live Music by Bongo Boy
Attire: Casual Elegance
Parking: Limited parking. Please carpool with your friends!
Ticket Price: $50
Just a few of the Live Auction Items:
- Ultimate Colts Experience by Colts lineman Joe Reitz
- Wyoming Ranch Family Getaway
- Private Hot Air Balloon Ride for 2, sunrise or sunset with champagne
- Mountain Biking Excursion with coach, bikes provided
Delicious Heavy Appetizers including:
- Beef Tenderloin w/ Chocolate Balsamic Sauce
- Smoked Chicken Bruschetta
- Cilantro-Panko Crusted Shrimp
- Risotto w/ Grilled Zucchini
- Goat Cheese Tortas and more…
- Ameriana Bank
- KB Parrish & Co, LLP (Certified Public Accountants)
- Friedlander, Coplan and Aronff Law
- S K Richard and Associates Realtors
Creating Hope, Inc.
Tina and John Gianfagna
13897 Rue Royale Lane, McCordsville, IN 46055
Team Luke Corp
Vicky and Todd Andritsch
10051 Wild Turkey Row
McCordsville, IN 46055
Indy SurviveOars, Dragon Boat Racing
Genie Barker, President
9664 Nautilus Circle
Indianapolis, IN 46256