Thoughts About Giving
Honoring Two MSAA Champions for Their Unique Support in a Virtual Age
By Rebecca Mooney,
MSAA Vice President of Development
As MSAA prepared to recognize our 50th Anniversary in 2020, no one could have predicted COVID-19 and the impact it would have on every aspect of the organization. One bright spot in the uncertainty of life during a pandemic has been the launch of MSAA’s unique virtual events, including our Improving Lives Through Art series. For MSAA’s 2022 Improving Lives Benefit, we are excited to recognize two MSAA Champions who inspired the art series and have helped it grow every step of the way.
After a necessary cancellation of the 50th Anniversary Improving Lives Benefit, originally set for March 2020, MSAA was faced with determining what to do next. Alexandra von Plato, MSAA Board of Directors Member and CEO of Publicis Health, suggested planning a smaller event in the fall at a museum she also works closely with, the Barnes Foundation. As the pandemic unfortunately continued, MSAA once again had to pivot, and we worked closely with Alex, the Publicis Health team, and the Barnes Foundation to launch a virtual art tour – allowing the community to join together safely from the comfort of their homes. Despite a short timeframe to launch, the event was well-received and had more than 120 attendees raising more than $80,000 in support of MSAA’s mission.
After that success and the incredible attendee feedback, we knew we had to keep the momentum going. Tying in MSAA’s long standing tradition of recognizing artists with MS through the MSAA Art Showcase, the team quickly worked to pull together a series of events featuring another virtual art tour and an interactive paint-along. When faced with whom to ask to support these virtual events, longtime contributor Hannah Garrison was an immediate suggestion. As fate would have it, Hannah had personally hosted past paint-and-sip events, both virtually and in-person, and was excited to bring that experience to MSAA. Joe Caliva, a docent and tour guide from the Barnes Foundation, also proved to be another key connection. Joe graciously offered to build custom art tours for MSAA and to host the new series. In total, these art initiatives have raised more than $250,000 to date, with a fall series planned for 2022. None of this would have been possible without the leadership of Alex and Hannah, and MSAA is proud to have the honor of recognizing them both as our Corporate and Mission Honorees for the 2022 Improving Lives Benefit.
MSAA will host our second annual virtual event, “Together at Home,” on May 12 at 7:00 PM EST, as well as an in-person event in Philadelphia on May 5. Both of these events will be hosted by Tyler Campbell, along with running a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign to raise funds to directly support the Mission Auction portion of the event. To start your own virtual viewing party or to join MSAA in honoring Alexandra von Plato and Hannah Garrison at the 2022 Improving Lives Benefit, please visit: engage.mymsaa.org/benefit2022.
Improving Lives Benefit 2022 Corporate Honoree
Alexandra von Plato
CEO, Publicis Health
Chief Executive Officer of Publicis Health, Alexandra von Plato joined the MSAA Board of Directors in 2019. Across Publicis Health’s network of 11 agency brands, a key focus is connecting healthcare and wellness brands with the people who need them. That’s what drew Alex to MSAA – the idea of working hand-in-hand with an organization with a history of bringing that focus to life was a perfect fit. In her time with MSAA’s Board, Alex has led the Communications and Marketing Committee, providing key insights from her vast professional experience. In addition, her team has financially supported a range of events and initiatives, including the Improving Lives Through Art series, the Improving Lives Benefit, MSAA’s Anniversary Challenge, and key MSAA Golf Classic events in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Beyond that, her team has a strong commitment to build connections that make sense – expanding MSAA’s corporate reach one introduction at a time.
Improving Lives Benefit 2022 Mission Honoree
A long-time visual artist from Texas, Hannah Garrison was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2017 and used her painting as a safe space for exploration, mindfulness, and a chance to practice self-love when she needed it the most. For her, healing has always started with mental health.
While she sometimes makes adjustments to the way she creates art to accommodate difficulty holding tools or other physical issues related to her MS, Hannah maintains a focus on creating art for her personal wellbeing and sharing that with others. In addition to contributing to the MSAA Art Showcase each year, she serves as a volunteer and community leader bringing the arts to people facing life-altering health challenges. She truly believes her continued focus on art has helped her mind overcome some of the damage done to her neural pathways due to MS.
Hannah significantly helped drive the success of the Improving Lives Through Art series from its inception – her infectious smile, simple directions, and an ability to help people make art their own has hooked participants from the first event. The best part? Members of the MS community who have participated alongside Hannah consistently provide feedback that they feel more empowered to not let MS get in their way.