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Things I Learned at Pay it Forward with Daniel Curtis

Daniel Curtis hosts benefit for the Lone Star Paralysis Foundation.

By Virginia B. Wood, 1:07PM, Wed. Aug. 22, 2012

Chefs Josh Watkins (left) and David Bull (right)
Chefs Josh Watkins (left) and David Bull (right)

Austin hospitality professional Daniel Curtis was injured in a freak accident on Labor Day of 2011 which left him paralyzed. His friends and fellow employees at the UT/AT&T Education and Conference Center immediately put together a benefit to help with his medical expenses. That party was one of 2011's most successful local fundraising efforts.

Because Daniel credits the services of the Lone Star Paralysis Foundation for much of his amazing recovery over the past year, he decided to repeat the benefit this year to raise funds for the foundation. Daniel's friends in the local chef and mixologist community stepped up to provide food and drinks for the party in the Center ballroom, Kat Edmonson and Shawn Colvin volunteered to perform, and countless restaurants, hotels, businesses, and sports figures donated items for both live and silent auctions. It was my privilege to get a media invitation to the party and I'm really glad I went. As someone with mobility issues who uses a motorized scooter to get around at big public events, I often find myself the only person on wheels at these sip and stroll parties, sometimes with uncomfortable effects (desserts spilled in my lap, drinks spilled over my shoulders). That was not the case at this particular party. It was a humbling experience to greet so many other people seated at my eye level around the ballroom, all the while realizing how lucky I was to be able to walk away from my scooter at the end of the evening.

As you can imagine, the food, drinks and entertainment were all fabulous, but the mission of the Lone Star Paralysis Foundation was the most impressive aspect of the evening, by far. I learned a lot about the foundation and picked up some juicy food community gossip all in the same evening. What could be better than that?

*Former UT football great Doug English formed the Lone Star Paralysis Foundation in 2000. English and the other foundation board members are all volunteers who pay their own way, which means the administrative costs foundation budget are only 4%. That means more money goes to research and services and makes the foundation a great investment for donation dollars.

*Seton's Brain and Spine Recovery Center is one of the best facilities in the country, attracting many patients and their families who relocate to Austin for treatment.

*The Austin food community certainly takes care of it's own. Josh Watkins and David Bull make pretty good party auctioneers, but they are even better friends to Daniel Curtis and other clients of the foundation and it's services.

*Chef Jack Gilmore hosts regular events to benefit the Lone Star Paralysis Foundation at Jack Allen's Kitchen. Gilmore and sous chef Chris TenEyck just brought home a bronze medal from the Great American Seafood Cook-off held in New Orleans earlier this month.

*Mixologist David Alan just turned in the manuscript for his first book, Tipsy Texan - Cocktails & Spirits from the Lone Star State, to be published by Andrews McMeel in June of 2013.

*Chefs Stewart Scruggs and Mark Paul closed BC Tavern in Bee Cave over the weekend. Now both chefs will be at Wink full time.

*Molecular gastronomy techniques and equipment were in use at more than one restaurant's booth at the party. Plinio Sandalio of the Carillon and Philip Speer of Uchi/Uchiko were both pushing the envelope.

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