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VIVA GLAM Columnist and TV Host “Living Large with Anicia” was honored to be an attendee of the “Challenged Athlete” Gala in the beautiful city of San Diego. The event was held at the famous “Rancho Valencia” Resort and Spa. Anticipation was in the air that evening as they were aiming to raise 1 million dollars at the silent auction dinner.


Following the comedian’s death last August, a supporter of one of William’s favorite charities, CAF, put forth his own challenge. “If you create an endowment fund in Robins Williams name, I’ll match it dollar for dollar,” a Chicago man told Jeffrey Essakow, CAF president and co-founder. When Essakow suggest they might just raise the $1 million or more, the silent donor from Chicago, who wishes to remain anonymous, told Essakow: “If you raise $1 million or more, I’ll give you $1 million. “For a gift to be meaningful it has to hurt.” Zelda Williams, the comedian’s daughter kicked started the drive by making a $50,000 award in her father’s memory. The children presented the first three grants from the Challenged Athletes Foundation Endowment in memory of their father Robin Williams to local challenged athletes.

CAF Event at Rancho Valencia-53

“A Celebration of Will” was a sold out event. They raised more than $ 3 Million dollars on March 10, 2015 which was placed in the Challenged Athletes Foundation Endowment in Memory of Robin Williams, which will fund grants for adaptive sports equipment, training and competition expenses to challenged athletes for years to come. The Gala was co-chaired by Jeff Jacobs and Jeffrey Essakow, Co-owners of Rancho Valencia. Robin’s three children, Zak, Zelda and Cody Williams were there, among other family members, along with numerous celebrity friends, Hollywood A-list and sports celebrities. Other notable guest in attendance included Congressman Scott Peters, San Diego, Mayor Kevin Faulcorner, San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman, Joan and Irwin Jacobs.

Gin Ambotaite, Amy Purdy and Sandra Ambotait

Gin Ambotaite, Amy Purdy and Sandra Ambotaite

An inspiring and memorable evening. It was quite remarkable to hear the challenged athletes telling their stories about being in the hospital, receiving the devastating news from their physicians that they needed to have a limb amputated and that CAF showed up before they ever left the hospital to introduce themselves and their foundation. Celeste Corcoran, who lost both legs in the Boston Marathon bombing is just one of the people being assisted by the Challenged Athletes Foundation.


Andre Agassi’s speech brought us all to tears. He spoke that night about playing tennis and having dinner with Robin at his house. After dinner Robin wanted to turn in early to get up and go swim with the challenged athletes. He based his life around helping and serving others. Although we felt his absence, the funding received through this charitable gala enabled his commitment to the challenged athletes to live on. I’m sure he was smiling down on all of us that evening!

Andre Agassi

Andre Agassi



The Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) is a world leader in helping people with physical challenges lead active, healthy lifestyles. CAF believes that participation in physical activity at any level increases self-esteem, encourages independence and enhances quality of life. Since 1994, more than $60 million has been raised and over 9,500 funding request from people with physical challenges in all 50 states and dozens of countries have been satisfied. Additionally, CAF’s outreach efforts reach 60,000 individuals each year. Whether it’s a $2,500 grant for a handcycle, helping underwrite carbon fiber running foot not covered by insurance, or arranging enthusiastic encouragement from a mentor who has triumphed over a similar challenge, CAF’s mission is clear: Give opportunities and support those with the desire to live an active athletic lifestyle.


Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) puts on unique, first-class fundraising events as ways to get involved. Getting involved or attending a charity event like I did lets people see first hand the wonderful work that CAF is doing and how they are changing the lives of challenged athletes. Be sure to bring your Kleenex, it’s heart wrenching inspiring stories. What I learned was these athletes were not disabled, they were hero’s even faced with adversity and life altering news; they had the courage and strength to overcome.


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