On Thursday, August 11, some of finest chefs in the Austin culinary arts scene will gather at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center. At the fifth annual Pay it Forward with Daniel Curtis event, they will take part in raising funds benefiting the Lone Star Paralysis Foundation. Guests will enjoy great food and drinks while helping people living with paralysis and raising awareness about spinal cord injuries.
“Guests will enjoy food and drinks while helping people with paralysis.”
Finding good in adversity
Daniel Curtis worked as assistant food and beverage director at the AT&T center until he suffered an accident on Memorial Day in 2011. The Austin American-Statesman reported that he slipped into his above-ground pool. He broke his sixth cervical vertebrae, and he found himself a quadriplegic.
When Curtis struggled to pay his medical bills, his friends in the hospitality and dining community and the Lone Star Paralysis Foundation organized a fundraiser. According to the foundation, this initial event brought in over $65,000.
The following year, Curtis set out to pass on the favor to others with the first Pay it Forward benefit. The proceeds go to supporting the work of the foundation, which was founded by former University of Texas and Detroit Lions football player Doug English in 1979. The organization’s website explained that it supports research into spinal injuries, runs a gym offering recovery and recreation programs and provides financial assistance to the recently paralyzed.
Curtis has become a spokesperson and member of the board of directors for the foundation, even as he has continued his own progress through therapy and furthered his education at UT. He explained in a statement why he feels this work is so important.
“It’s not just a gym, and it’s not just for physical recovery,” he said. “It’s a family, a support group, and therapy for the body and the mind. Pay It Forward is about making the necessary resources available so that people can face their life’s greatest challenge with not only a sense of hope and purpose, but knowing the chair is just a temporary solution.”
Food, drinks and entertainment for a cause
For the fifth annual Pay it Forward benefit, Curtis outlined several goals for the proceeds from ticket sales and and a silent auction. The money will go to buying or repairing gym equipment, providing assistance for people with spinal injuries in financial need, offering transportation to and from the gym, organizing recreational activities and a $5,000 scholarship. Any remaining proceeds will help Curtis with his continuing medical costs of about $10,000 a year.
Along with supporting the foundation’s work, this year’s event promises to be a good time, with plenty of excellent food and drink. The chefs participating include Chris Wilson of The Carillon, Joe Anguiano of VOX Table, David Bull of Second Bar and Kitchen, Jen Cash of Austin Cake Ball, and John Bates and Brandon Martinez of The Noble Sandwich Co., among others.
There will be wine, donated by Glazer’s, and local craft beers on hand at the open bar. Treaty Oak Distilling, Patron Spirits and The Tipsy Texan are providing a selection of eight specialty cocktails for the occasion. Local band The Mrs! is scheduled to perform, delivering its combination of rock ‘n’ roll and empowerment.
Regular admission tickets cost $75, while VIP tickets cost $125. VIP tickets allow early entry, meaning guests can avoid long lines and have a chance to meet the chefs. The benefit kicks off at 7 p.m. for those holding regular tickets and at 6 p.m. for VIPs. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the event website.