In Southern California, the opportunity to get “dressed to the nines” and strut around town in a classy pair of heels presented itself more often than not. Even a simple summer night strolling Victoria Gardens (the local outdoor mall where I grew up) called for a matching clutch and cute pumps. But my move to Santa Cruz sharply contrasted the consumer driven bubble I grew up in. Here I was met face to face with comfort in the form of anything and everything hemp, organic cotton, O’Neill, yoga attire, or Birkenstocks. With this in mind, when the idea arose for Pacific Cookie Company to be the primary sponsor of Mama’s Night Out, a “shabby chic” benefit event for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, you can imagine my slight uncertainty of the intended attire.

My father’s words of wisdom cut through as I remembered him always telling me it was better to be overdressed than under-dressed. So, I left the house that evening in my matching satin blue heels and two-tone aquamarine feather earrings, ready to join the throngs of other women who gathered at this special occasion to help raise money in the name of Liam Witt and Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. As I fed a few dollar bills into the parking meter, I heard the once familiar clicking of heels on concrete and was shocked to see a small group of women in slim-fitting black dresses with shiny clutches tucked under their arms. I approached the Rittenhouse building in downtown Santa Cruz where the event was being held, and checked in.

I was directed to a large elevator around the corner, and amidst a collage of floral perfumes and the distinct smell of Chanel No. 5 I ascended towards the soft rhythms of a jazzy beat. As I turned the corner towards the mingling cliques of women, I was overwhelmed by the exquisite nature of the space:  beautiful drop chandeliers hanging above simple white tables and decorated with pink and orange satin runners, an illuminating pink and orange glow radiating from the tabletop candles, colorful floor lighting that highlighted black and white photographs of various families who donated to the event, and small twinkling white lights that seemed to draw one’s eye back to the vast array of locally donated sweet treats so artfully arranged on long banquet tables framed with pink and orange Gerbera daisies.

It was at that moment that I realized the significance of the event. Mama’s Night Out wasn’t just another night on the town; it wasn’t about socializing with friends or with other mothers; it wasn’t about showing off your new shoes, or winning a few raffle prizes; it was about family. It was about solidarity. It was about creating awareness. It was to teach how to Love Like Liam.

Liam was the son of Gretchen and Larry Witt, a couple devoted to raising money for pediatric cancer research by way of their non-profit organization, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. Their dream to “support the development of new and better treatments” began with just a few bake sales and 96,000 cookies. Just 3 years later, they have facilitated in the hosting of thousands of bake sales across the country and raised millions of dollars in the process. Liam would have been 7 years old this past May. To commemorate his life, a call to action was made to host 700 bake sales in his honor and to continue the fight against pediatric cancer. In association with these bake sales, The Glad Products agreed to match all proceeds in May up to $225,000.

With this goal in mind, Michelle Riddle of Michelle Riddle Photography and our own Cara Pearson put their heads together to plan what became Mama’s Night Out. Their goal was to attract 200 women looking to spend time with their girlfriends while raising $10,000 for pediatric cancer. The event was a smashing success – from the fantastic wines complimentary of Epic Wines to music by DJ Sparkle to various vendors including personalized perfume creations (Studio Parfum) and bra fitting (Essential Body Wear), Mama’s Night Out attracted 275 women, and raised $18,000 which, after matched by The Glad Products, came to a grand total of $36,000!! Needless to say, we’ve already had MANY inquiries as to whether or not there will be a 2nd annual Mama’s Night Out (of which the answer is hands down “YES!”).

I now wear a simple bracelet decorated with three beads: one pink for my sister’s June birthday, one brown for my husband’s November birthday, and one orange for Liam. And although I never met this strong young man, the stories of his innocent smiles and contagious laughter are embodied in the plain orange bead that sits between the pink and the brown. To me, my bracelet represents the simplicity of life, how fragile it is, and how quickly it can all be taken away. It represents strength and the power that we have when working together towards a larger goal. But most of all it represents Love, and reminds me to Love Like Liam. Everyday. I feel proud to be part of a community that respects and strives towards these same values, and cannot wait to be a part of the 2nd Annual Mama’s Night Out.

Thank you to all who volunteered, and an equally appreciative thank you to all those who attended! Your donations and support are furthering a cause that will one day lead to major cancer treatment breakthroughs. Remember to Love Like Liam, and in the words of Cookies for Kids Cancer, thank you for Being a Good Cookie!

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