After a successful 20th anniversary celebration in 2011, Abilities United Authors Luncheon followed up this year with another panel of renowned authors: Arlie Hochschild, Jon J. Muth, Ellen Sussman, and Lee Woodruff. This popular event drew a sold-out audience of over 600 book lovers from all parts of the Bay Area.  

Carolyn Johnson, co-anchor of ABC7 News emceed the event and introduced Heidi M. Feldman, M.D., PhD, President of the Board of Directors of Abilities United, who spoke about the benefits of early intervention services for children at risk of developmental delays.

Dr. Feldman was followed by Jennifer Byde Myers, co-author of “Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism” who told her family’s personal story about how her son benefited from Abilities United early intervention services when he was a toddler and how her family benefited from the support they received from other parents and staff.

These guest speakers led the way to the newly added “Fund a Future” auction to raise scholarship funds for early intervention services for children at risk of developmental delays.  Abilities United partnered with Alman Benefit Auctions to manage the 15 -minute auction, which raised $67,000 from dozens of event attendees!

The 4 hours long event concluded with the four-featured authors who sat on the stage in a conversational “U” arrangement.  Carolyn Johnson introduced each one and Jon J Muth opened and delighted the audience with his illustrations and tales of the inspirations behind his drawings.  Ellen Sussman followed Muth with stories of her life in France and the gift she gave her husband, which inspired her recent novel “French Lessons”. Arlie Hochschild entertained the audience with examples of how Americans outsource the activities of their lives such as dating, children’s birthday parties, and home maintenance.  Lastly, Lee Woodruff shared her personal story about her husband Bob’s brain injury and recovery.  In additional to the presentation, the authors signed their books and greeted book lovers throughout the afternoon. 

The Abilities United art exhibit and silent auction, now in it’s seventh year as part of the luncheon and sponsored by Allegro Framing of Portola Valley, showcased original works of art by artists of Abilities United.  100% of the proceeds go directly to the artists who range in age from 3 years old to over 50 years old and participate in all of Abilities United services.  These 12 original works of art are also featured in the Abilities United annual report, which is designed as a 2013 calendar. 

This year’s Authors Luncheon is expected to raise a record $300,000 through ticket sales, sponsorship, book sales and donations. Over the past 21 years, the Authors Luncheon has raised over $2 million!  These funds are used to provide services to people with developmental and physical challenges through Abilities United’s life long services including Children’s Development, Family Support, Adult Services and Aquatic Services.  Since it’s inception in 1992, the Authors Luncheon has grown from 325 attendees to today’s dedicated audience of over 600.  Revenue has grown from $30,000 in the first year to this year’s expected $300,000. Stay tuned for next year’s Authors Luncheon and the “save the date” announcement.

Special thanks to our sponsors, donors, volunteers and authors for making this event so successful! You can see their names and details at
Also, photos of the Authors Luncheon are posted on the Abilities United Facebook page
Submitted by Wendy Kuehnl, Abilities United Marketing Director