“Dis the dis in disability,” exclaimed 27 year old Travis Mills who surmounted the stage with his new arms and legs, losing all limbs after being critically injured on his third tour of duty in Afghanistan by an IED while on patrol. Being only one of five quadruple amputees from the wars in Iraq and Adganistan to survive his injuries, we learned how he told the doctors soon after at Walter Reed Hospital to place him in the rehab unit. After eight attempts of asking to be moved to the rehabilitation unit, they finally said OK.
Travis Mills, a US Army Staff Sergeant of the 82nd Airborne, spoke to the crowd like a fun friend, joking like a kid, as he amazed every one of us at Jane Seymour and James Keach‘s luxurious Malibu home. His outlook and attitude about life were extraordinary, as his wife sat nearby the stage. Travis said he knew he had a lot to live for – his wife and baby. It is only two years later after that horrible incident, and Travis has already created the Travis Mills Foundation. Travis has become a motivational speaker, actor, and advocate for veterans and amputees. He continues to overcome life’s challenges, breaking physical barriers and defying odds. Due to his incredible will to live and his jovial attitude, Travis shows us what strength and courage look like. A genuine American hero, Travis continues his road to recovery by inspiring the nation.
As we took shuttles to get to the elegant Seymour Keach Malibu home, we strolled along gorgeous gardens to enter their home that hung over the Pacific Ocean. We had just seen Jane a few weeks ago at the LA Ballet Gala where she was honored. Now she was honoring others with her own Open Hearts Foundation. Hosted by CNN’s Christi Paul, the purpose of the Open Hearts Foundation is to support organizations that are committed to positively impacting lives in the areas of health, education, arts and sports. Those who give selflessly in the face of life’s challenges represent the Open Heart Philosophy. Funds raised from the evening benefit the Open Hearts Foundation.
Guests enjoyed Veev cocktails around the pool bar and silent auction while the sun set as everyone tried to keep warm. I loved seeing the old school fabulous band Cheap Trick, and I had a chance to tell my all time favorite actor Aaron Paul that I thought he was the best actor of the last decade. He agreed that his wife is such an inspiration. Aaron was proudly there supporting his wife who was also being honored for her Kind Campaign. “She is amazing!” I told him I saw his latest film Smashed, and he asked me if I saw it on Netflix. Amazing how Netflix blew up his success as an actor.
Julianne Hough joked she is not a director, but a dancer, as she introduced the lovely team that created the Kind Campaign – Lauren Paul and Molly Thompson. These gorgeous girls from Pepperdine created a documentary that turned into something even grander, a movement that has swept Title 1 schools in the USA. Their anti-bullying campaign has the two girls spreading their KINDness message to girls by hosting school assemblies. The girls they meet get to share Kindness cards, apologies, and spread healing to many who suffer from girl against girl ‘crime.’ You may enjoy following their journey on Instagram to see how they are creating change at a young age.
The energy of the evening was tremendous, like nothing I have seen before at a charity gala. People were genuinely happy to be part of this special gala event starting at $500 a seat. As we ate dinner and enjoyed more cocktails, we learned how the two other honorees are changing the world.
Actor, writer, director, Philanthropist Kimberly Williams Paisley is known for her appearances on the CBS Comedy Two and Half Men, the film series Father of the Bride, the ABC sitcom According to Jim, and the drama Nashville. She was honored for being a huge advocate for bringing awareness about dementia and the effects on families, after her mother’s diagnosis and inability to speak. She wrote a moving story in Redbook magazine earlier this year sharing the challenges she and her family have faced over the last ten years with her mother’s dementia. She is also finding ways for caregivers to gain support when dealing with this horrible disease.
Derrick Hall, President and CEO of the Arizona Diamondbacks, is a cancer survivor who was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the age of 42. He has been very open about his treatment, in an effort to create a conversation about this horrible disease. Derrick created the Derrick Hall Pro-State Foundation to provide comprehensive information and support for families dealing with screening, diagnosis, treatment, and recovery from Prostate Cancer. As a passionate advocate, he has encouraged others to get tested at an earlier age than is often recommended.
Performances by Angelica Garcia, American folk rock band Delta Rae, and American rock band Cheap Trick were legendary in such a personal tented space. The enthusiastic gala attendees were on their feet, on the chairs, and even waving the large table candles and cell phones mimicking old school lighters as people let loose and danced like they didn’t care who was watching! Cheap Trick fired away with classic songs like Surrender and I Want You to Want Me. Everyone was out of their seats and dancing with joy, especially when Aaron Paul got on stage at the end of night with Cheap Trick and jammed with them on the keyboards Breaking Bad style.
Many tears and smiles were shared as truly our hearts were open together, as we learned how ordinary people are doing extraordinary things to make the world a better place. Their stories motivated us and lifted our spirits. Everyone was on their feet applauding these special heroes. The Open Hearts Foundation Gala was a moment in time of joined support, appreciation, respect, and love, and a memory we will never forget.
“If your heart is open, love will find its way in.”