Amistad Gala celebrates supporters of world renowned hospital

DOWNEY – The Rancho Los Amigos Foundation hosted its 29th annual Amistad Gala, themed "The Heart of Rancho," on Saturday, March 14, at the Westin in Long Beach.The night was designed to celebrate the people and companies who, through their collective support of the foundation, enable Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center to be one of the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the country.

This year's celebration honored two Amistad Awardees: the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Adopt a Family program, and Art of Rancho artist and patient advocate Carlos Benavides.

Bank of America

For nearly 20 years, Bank of America employees from various locations have thrown an annual holiday party for patients of Rancho Los Amigos and their families as part of their Adopt-a-Family program. This program is unique in the fact that the majority of funds are raised by Bank of America employees themselves throughout the year to help provide our Rancho Los Amigos families with food and gifts for the holiday season.

Every year, more than 500 employees are able to raise over $10,000 in gifts and “adopt” anywhere from 20 to 40 families to help to bring their holiday dreams to life. "The outstanding contribution of Bank of America’s Adopt A Family program for more than two decades truly gives our patients and their families a reason to feel joy, hope, and friendship from our community partners," the Rancho Los Amigos Foundation said.

Carlos Benavides

As a survivor of a debilitating spinal cord injury, Carlos Benavides knows firsthand what it is like to have your world change in the blink of an eye. He went from being a fully able-bodied motorcycle riding, rock playing musician, to a wheelchair bound tetraplegic.

Though Carlos’s accident dramatically altered the course of his life, it did not take away his vast creativity or his ability to connect with those around him in deep impactful ways. At Rancho Los Amigos, Carlos is an everyday fixture. Everyone on the Rancho campus knows Carlos by name, and he is a renowned member of the “Art of Rancho” program, with his works prominently displayed throughout Los Angeles.

As a peer mentor, Carlos is able to share his own life experiences with those who may just be starting their journey to accepting life with a physical challenge. Serving as co-chair of the Patient Advisory Council, Carlos strives to make sure that each and every patient at Rancho receives the level of care that they deserve regardless of their status as an inpatient or outpatient. Outside of Rancho, Carlos serves as a commissioner for the Los Angeles ADA Commission.

"Carlos’s outstanding contributions and leadership at Rancho over the years have proven him to be a vital resource for patient advocacy and peer mentoring, and a distinguished member of our Artists of Rancho program," the foundation said.

The gala event featured a silent auction, dinner, dancing, and a live auction featuring auctioneer L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe.

In addition, the more than 350 guests in attendance were given an opportunity to preview the newly approved designs for the complete renovation of Rancho Los Amigos, set to begin next month and be completed in the year 2020, earning it the nickname “Rancho 2020.”

Knabe presented the master plans for the renovations to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Feb. 24, and has secured funding for the $420 million dollar project.

The foundation is a non-profit, public benefit corporation that conducts fundraising activities to support research, education, equipment and patient care at Rancho.

The funds raised at the Amistad Gala provide financial support to the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Hospital to fund programs such as patient activities, facilities, equipment and series that help the thousands of patients treated at Rancho each year.

For more information on the Rancho Los Amigos Foundation, including donation opportunities, to join the mailing list, or more information on programs funded, contact the foundation office at (562) 401-7053.