HGAR’s Red Carpet Spectacular Event Raises Needed Funds for Make-A-Wish
John Jordan | May 17, 2016
STONY POINT—Approximately 150 members of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors gathered on May 5th at the Clubhouse at Patriot Hills to hear a courageous 15-year-old tell his story of how a trip to the beaches of Australia organized by Make a Wish Hudson Valley helped give him the resolve to win his battle against cancer.
Thomas Conklin, president and CEO of Make A Wish Hudson Valley, introduced Ramiro Vargas, who relayed how at the age of 13 following a routine physical and blood work, he was informed he had two blood cancers. The diagnosis caused him to not only miss school, but also his beloved soccer. In his battle to overcome cancer, he underwent chemotherapy treatments as well as a bone marrow transplant.
He admitted that for a time he was upset, but eventually got a “wish” to surf at Australia’s Surfer’s Paradise, one of the best places in the world to catch a wave. That wish he said helped him “get his mind off” the hard road he had ahead.
“The opportunity (provided by) Make-A-Wish gave me hope, joy and strength because there was something to look forward to outside of the hospital walls,” Vargas said.
The teenager, who at the time was missing high school and was being tutored due to his illness, learned in late 2014 that his wish for he and his family to travel to Surfer’s Paradise would be granted after all. On March 13, 2015 the family was transported by limousine to JFK Airport and then traveled 22 hours by plane to Australia.
In addition to he and family members getting surfing lessons and then eventually surfing the giant waves there, also visited Dreamworld, one of the largest amusements parks in the world and Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo where he fed and petted kangaroos and he even held a koala bear. “It was nothing like I ever imagined,” he said. “It was such a great experience.”
He concluded his speech by saying, “This amazing experience came to life because of Make A Wish Hudson Valley. It was such a life-changing experience making all the hospital stays and treatment worth it. The trip to Surfer’s Paradise Australia gave me hope, strength and joy in my life and the power of that experience continues to impact me and my family today.”
As he walked away from the microphone back to the table to join his family, the entire audience stood up and gave this well-spoken and courageous young man a standing ovation. Make A Wish’s Conklin praised Vargas for his courage, as well as his sister who donated bone marrow to her brother during his treatment.
HGAR and its predecessor Orange County Association of Realtors have been longtime sponsors of Make-A-Wish, having contributed more than $300,000 in the last 20 years. While final tabulations were being made at press time, HGAR officials said the event raised more than $16,000 for the non-profit organization through donations, as well as raffle and door prizes that were handed out. The evening program also featured dinner, music and dancing.
Conklin said that since 1986 the Hudson Valley Chapter has granted 2,447 wishes and another 150 wishes are currently being worked on. Make-A-Wish Hudson Valley serves eight counties: Delaware, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester counties. The wishes have an average cost ranging from $7,500 to $10,000.
The following were the sponsors for the event:
Gold Star Sponsors: Dorothy Jensen Realty, Inc., JP Morgan Chase & Co., Ulster Savings Bank, William Raveis Legends Realty Group, Wright Bros., Real Estate Inc. Wells Fargo Home Mortgage (New Windsor) and BHG Rand Realty (New City).
Silver Star Sponsors: Allan M. Block Agency, Inc., ASAP Mortgage Inc., Fini Developers, M&T Bank (Fishkill), Mid Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union (Kingston), Prime Lending, Richard Haggerty, HGAR CEO, Smitchger Realty and Sterling Bank (Montebello).
Bronze Star Sponsors: Advantage Home Inspections, Ann Garti, HGAR COO, Bloom & Bloom, Century 21 Prestige Realty (Goshen), John Chewens (Newburgh), Edberg Solution, FM Home Loans, (Teaneck, NJ), Keller Williams Hudson Valley Realty, New City, Keller Williams Realty, Chester, Keller Williams Realty Hudson Valley United, Middletown, Korth & Shannahan Painting Co., Inc., Lucrezia & Partners LLP, Mark’s Inspections, O’Keefe & McCann, Goshen, Shadow Glen Farms, LLC, The Brothers that just do Gutters and The Law Office of R. Spencer Lauterbach, New City.
HGAR also wished to thank other event sponsors: Red Carpet Photography sponsored by Sander Koudijs of The Great American Title Company, Caricature art sponsored by Kerri Stretch, the Cocktail hour music provided by Sadiki Pierre and Elasea Douglas of “Acute Inflections.” HGAR also wishes to thank the many companies that donated basket raffle items.