The 26th Annual Abilities United’s historically successful fundraiser, Authors Luncheon, raised over $375,000 as of November 13, 2017.

This popular event attended by nearly 500 community members from throughout the Bay Area was held on Saturday, November 4, and featured a panel of renowned, best-selling authors including Menlo Park resident, Donia Bijan, “Ask Amy” syndicated columnist, Amy Dickinson,  Children’s book illustrator, Tom Lichtenheld, and break out author, Maile Meloy.  Event sponsorships, ticket sales, and the “Fund a Future” auction raised the revenue for Abilities United’s award-winning lifetime of services for children and adults with developmental and physical disabilities.

The Authors Luncheon details were:
Saturday, November 4, 2017
Crowne Plaza Cabana Hotel

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

William “Bill” Johnson Palo Alto Weekly Publisher joined the event as the Master of Ceremony.  William S. “Bill” Johnson is the founder and publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly and president and CEO of Embarcadero Media, an independent media company that operates four community newspapers – the Palo Alto Weekly, the Almanac, Mountain View Voice and Pleasanton Weekly – six community websites and publishes specialty publications and digital media enterprises on the San Francisco Peninsula and in the East Bay.

The audience was moved to donate over $118,000 at the Fund-A-Future auction after hearing Jen Wagstaff-Hinton, 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 benefit her daughter and family. Jen is also an Abilities United board member and native Palo Alto resident. 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, her daughter, and the Palo Alto community she grew up in. Jen and her family have a passion for Abilities United and participate in all fundraising activities including the Authors Luncheon and the Abilities United Aquathon.

The four author presentations followed Wagstaff-Hinton’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:

Author Presentations

  • Donia Bijan: Menlo Park resident, Bay Area chef and acclaimed memoirist. The Last Days of Café Leila, her celebrated debut novel, explores the bonds of family and food while tracing four generations of Iranians across Europe, California, and Iran. Donia formerly operated the L’Amie Donia restaurant in Palo Alto, a French-inspired bistro that won glowing reviews while in operation.
  • Amy Dickinson: Best-selling author and nationally syndicated advice columnist.  Her featured book is Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things: A Memoir of Love, Loss and Coming Home, her best-selling memoir about finding your way home again. Amy writes the nationally syndicated advice column, Ask Amy, featured in more than 150 newspapers including the San Jose Mercury News. For more than a decade, Amy has been a featured panelist on National Public Radio’s comedy quiz show, Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me.  She is also a sought-after speaker, delivering inspiring and comic stories of her adventures and misadventures to groups around the country.
  • Tom Lichtenheld: Award-winning author and illustrator of best-selling children’s books. His featured book is Mighty, Mighty Construction Site, a rhyming story featuring children’s favorite construction characters. Tom Lichtenheld is the talented illustrator behind many of your family’s favorite books, including Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site, Steam Train, Dream Train, I Wish You More, and Duck! Rabbit! Tom collaborated on several books with the late Amy Krouse Rosenthal, who appeared at the Authors Luncheon in 2009. Tom’s books are consistently listed on The New York Times best sellers list, and have been recognized by the International Literary Association Children’s Book Council, the School Library Journal, and the E.B. White Read-Aloud Honor Awards.
  • Maile Meloy: One of the best young American novelists writing today.  Her Featured Book: Do Not Become Alarmed, is a story about the protective force of innocence and the limits of parental power, and the way a crisis shifts our perceptions of what matters most. Maile Meloy‘s current book, Do Not Become Alarmed, was named one of the best books of the summer by such diverse reviewers as BookPage, O Magazine and Publishers Weekly. Her two previous novels, Liars and Saints and A Family Daughter, explore the same intensely complicated California family. Maile’s fiction has won several awards including the Paris Review‘s Aga Khan Prize for Fiction, the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story, and the Rosenthal Foundation Award from the America Academy of Arts and Letters.

Co-chairs of the 26th Annual Abilities United Authors Luncheon were Marcie Brown and Mary Kabakov, both of Palo Alto.

During its 26-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 and Family Services, Adult and Family Services and services for all ages and abilities. Since its inception in 1992, the Authors Luncheon has grown from 325 attendees to today’s dedicated audience of over 500 attendees.

The Abilities United art exhibit and silent auction, now in its 12th 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. The 12 original works of art on auction are also featured in the Abilities United 2018 calendar. Nearly all the pieces of art sold at the auction with prices ranging from $50 to $500.

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 chooses the four authors to present and sign books at the luncheon. Books Inc. donates 20% of all book sales to Abilities United.  Books Inc. Palo Alto is also sponsoring a post-Authors Luncheon sale on November 16, 6-8 pm. Join book lovers for sparkling wine, chocolates and book buying to benefit Abilities United participants with developmental disabilities.