On the afternoon of June 3, 2012 the small town of Wolcott, CT had an opportunity to show its support for a local family. About 200 adults gathered at the American Legion Hall for a wine tasting fundraiser in honor of the Hughes family, specifically their daughter Erin. Almost 10 now, Erin was diagnosed Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) four years ago. Over those four years there have been numerous trips to Boston for treatment and surgery.
“Monica and Dan Hughes are the most helpful, caring people” says neighbor and friend Tracey Rotella. “We knew the frequent travel had to be causing them financial hardship.” Tracey’s husband Al, a wine distributor, was determined to find a way to help. He and Tracey first mentioned the idea of a wine tasting fundraiser to their friend Staci. Staci is Dan’s sister. Over dinner in March Tracey and Dan asked the Hughes for permission to coordinate a fundraiser in Erin’s honor. Humbled by the offer the couple said they “didn’t want money but they did want a cure.” Finally, everyone agreed that a small amount would be set aside for future medical expenses and the rest donated for research. They had a plan.
Al quickly found vendors willing to participate and donate a percentage of their proceeds. Beer and vodka were also available, because, as Tracey enjoyed revealing, “Al is not a wine drinker.” Appetizers and desserts were also available. After securing a liquor license required by the state and purchasing event insurance, they “emailed our families and all our friends” to tell them about it. They also went door to door and business to business distributing flyers.
Local businesses donated over 40 items for raffle. Scully Travels donated tickets to a New York Yankees baseball game valued at $400 for bid in the silent auction.
The day before the wine tasting was extremely busy. “Not having done anything at this scale before, we didn’t realize the amount of work involved” reported Tracey. “Staci and I thought we would show up at 10am for a couple of hours. We were there until 7pm. Friends came to help who didn’t even know the Hughes family. I’m still in awe of the influx of people who came to help.”
On the afternoon of the event almost twice the expected number of participants showed up. Live background music was generously provided by The Fred & Ethel Band. “It was a great day,” Staci remembers, “a lot of fun.” Toward the end of the day Erin was brought in to pick the winning raffle tickets. A bit overwhelmed by the attention, Erin was excited to meet the Hereditary Neuropathy Foundation founder, Allison Moore. Allison drove four hours from Long Island to meet Erin and her family. It was a gesture that meant a lot especially to Erin and her mom. “I am so inspired by Allison,” Monica recalls of their meeting, “her motivation and hope for a cure.
“I think it was very meaningful,” Tracey added, “for Erin to see Allison wear her braces with such confidence. This was a very rewarding experience for all of us,” Tracey continued. “Not only did we help bring money to research, we helped bring knowledge to the town.”