The 25th Anniversary of the Abilities United’s historically successful fundraiser, Authors Luncheon, once again broke records having raised over $430,000 as of November 7, 2016. This popular event attended by over 550 community members from through out the Bay Area was held on Saturday, October 29, and featured a panel of renowned, best selling authors Mark Kurlansky, Dan Santat, Maria Semple, and Erin Gleeson.  Event sponsorships, ticket sales, and the “Fund a Future” auction raised the record revenue for Abilities United’s award-winning services for children and adults with developmental and physical disabilities.

The Authors Luncheon details were:
Saturday, October 29, 2016

Crowne Plaza Cabana Hotel
4290 El Camino Real, Palo Alto
10:30 a.m. – 2 pm

For the third year, Emmy award-winning journalist and former KTVU-SF reporter, Rita Williams of Portola Valley, emceed the event.

The audience was moved to donate over $164,000 at the Fund-A-Future auction after hearing Laurie Jarrett, a Palo Alto parent of an adult child with a developmental disability, eloquently and passionately tell her family story and share how Abilities United services benefited her daughter and family. Laurie is also a retired Abilities United board member and Authors Luncheon committee member since it’s founding in 1991. She spoke about her and her family’s experience raising a child with a developmental disability into adulthood.  She described the impact Abilities United has had on their family beginning in 1972 when her daughter was 4 months old in the Abilities United early intervention program and throughout her daughter’s 44 years of childhood and adulthood. Laurie and her family have a passion for Abilities United and the Authors Luncheon. They have contributed to the organization for the past 44 years as fundraisers, donors, volunteers, and advocates for services for people with developmental disabilities.

The four author presentations followed Jarrett’s compelling story and the emotion-filled auction. Before and after the luncheon and presentations, attendees also had the opportunity to purchase the authors’ books, meet the authors, and have their books signed. The four authors were:
•    Maria Semple, novelist and screenwriter who was recently featured on the front cover of the Books in Review section of the October 9 New York Times, spoke about Today Will Be Different, her acclaimed new novel about a day in the life of a woman forced to abandon her small ambitions.
•    Mark Kurlansky, a New York Times best selling author and journalist, regaled the audience with the background on his book, Paper: Paging through History, A definitive history of paper and the astonishing ways it has shaped today’s world
•    Woodside resident and best selling author and food blogger, Erin Gleeson, shared her current New York Times bestseller, The Forest Feast Gatherings, her third book in a series. When not creating and illustrating her recipes, Erin teaches photography at Stanford’s Continuing Studies program and works as a freelance food photographer and illustrator.
•    Dan Santat, author and illustrator of several children’s books and winner of last year’s Caldecott Medal presented his book, Are We There Yet? which takes readers on the road trip of a lifetime.

Co-chairs of the 25th Annual Abilities United Authors Luncheon were Paula Rini of Los Altos and Rachel Segars of Palo Alto. Rachel Segars, current President of the Abilities United Board, has been involved with Abilities United since 2009 when her son participated in the Early Intervention program. She found the parent participation, the support group, and the numerous resources provided by the Early Intervention team invaluable for dealing with the challenges of raising a child with special needs. “I was blown away by the dedication of this small team, whose commitment to respecting and empowering our young children with difficulties and supporting their families is truly inspiring.” She has served on the Authors Luncheon Committee since 2011.
Paula Rini joined the Authors Luncheon Committee in 2005 to coordinate the newly- inaugurated Abilities United Art Exhibit and Auction, which, for the past 10 years has generated art sales and income for the artists that Abilities United represents. Paula has also been involved in organizing the day of the event presentation and working with Abilities United participants to create special centerpieces for the event.

Each year, this popular literary and social event draws a sold-out audience of over 500 book lovers from throughout the Bay Area. This year’s celebration included a timeline of the 25-year history. Over the 25 years, the audience has been wowed, entertained, and mesmerized by over 100 authors including such notable locals as Martin Cruz Smith, Daniel Handler, Jennifer Holm, James D. Houston, Thacher Hurd, Anne Lamott, Yiyun Li, Ann Packer, Richard Rodriquez, Lalita Tademy, David Kennedy, Gail Tsukiyama, and most recently, Ashlee Vance.

During its 25-year history the Authors Luncheon has raised nearly $4 million. Funds are used to provide services to people with developmental and physical challenges through Abilities United’s services including Children’s Development, Family Support, Adult Services and Aquatic Services. Since it’s inception in 1992, the Authors Luncheon has doubled from 325 attendees to today’s dedicated audience of over 500 attendees.
The Abilities United art exhibit and silent auction, now in its 11th year as part of the luncheon and sponsored by Great American Framing Company of Palo Alto, showcased original works of art by artists of Abilities United who range in age from 3 years old to over 50 years old. These artists participate in all of Abilities United services…Children’s, Adult, Family and Aquatic Services. The 12 original works of art on auction are also featured in the Abilities United annual report, which is designed as a 2017 calendar. Nearly all the pieces of art sold at the auction with prices ranging from $50 to $300.

Since 2005, Abilities United has partnered with Books Inc., which sponsors the bookstore for the event. Margie Scott Tucker, co-owner of Books Inc., also sits on the Authors Selection committee, which vets and choses the four authors to present and sign books at the luncheon. Books Inc. donates 20% of all book sales to Abilities United.