The National Kidney Foundation will host its 34th Annual Kidney Ball at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, November 15, 2014. The funds raised at this popular black-tie event will support research, patient services, public and professional education, and organ donation awareness for those living with kidney disease and their loved ones.
WashingtonExec recently spoke with John Wasson, ICF International’s President and Chief Operating Officer, who is this year’s Kidney Ball Chair. Our conversation is below:
WashingtonExec: What led you to become the 2014 Kidney Ball Chairperson?
John Wasson: I was introduced to the National Kidney Foundation by Greg Baroni, the Chairman and CEO of Attain. After losing his father to kidney disease, Greg began serving on the Board of Directors for the National Capital Area chapter, and in 2005, he chaired the 25th Annual Kidney Ball. We share a commitment to fostering a culture of corporate social responsibility, so I was honored when he invited me to chair the 2014 gala. I have also personally known several co-workers at ICF who have been impacted by kidney disease, so getting involved with this event felt like a good thing to do.
WashingtonExec: Why should people support the Kidney Ball, and how can the Kidney Ball fit into companies’ charitable giving strategies?
John Wasson: Kidney disease is a major public health concern – 26 million Americans already have it, and most don’t know it. Another 73 million are at risk due to increasing rates of hypertension, obesity, and diabetes in the general population. The problem is particularly acute in the Washington, DC metropolitan area: 700,000 residents have kidney disease, more than 7,000 are on dialysis, and 1,700 are waiting for a kidney transplant.
The proceeds from the 34th Annual Kidney Ball fund the National Kidney Foundation’s programs, including free health screenings, public awareness campaigns, professional education for health providers, and events and services for patients and their families.
Also, ICF works to align our charitable giving strategies with issues that are important to our employees. Public health programs are an important part of our business and our commitment to these programs is important to our employees and captures their energy. I would think this would be true of many similar companies in this region.
WashingtonExec: How have your fundraising efforts been going so far this year?
John Wasson: I’m happy to report that we’ve made excellent progress: We’re on track to meet our goal of $850,000, thanks to the hard work of our outstanding committee. They’ve really rallied the business community to get involved with our cause, and we’re delighted to be welcoming so many first-time sponsors to the gala this year.
WashingtonExec: What are you most looking forward to at this year’s Ball?
John Wasson: I think I’m most excited about our awards programming. This year, we’re honoring a diverse group of leaders in the fight against kidney disease. We’ll be recognizing His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, for his leadership in raising awareness on a global scale. Our Community Service honoree is the Washington Wizards, in recognition of their longstanding commitment to educating the public about kidney disease and organ donation. I’m particularly looking forward to meeting NBA great Bob Dandridge, who will be accepting the Community Service Award on behalf of the team. We’ll also be honoring a patient advocate, Johnnie Cannady, who is as inspirational as he is a wonderful advocate for the National Kidney Foundation.
WashingtonExec: Have you been to this event in the past? Can we expect to see anything new this year?
This is my first time attending, and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve learned that the Kidney Ball is famous for bringing in a variety of all-star musical acts – if it featured a country western act one year, the staff and committee would look for a jazz musician the next, just to keep the program fresh and ensure that the event offered something for everyone.
Last year, The Commodores brought the funk, and this year, it’ll be Joan Jett and the Blackhearts rocking out! Joan is a rock n’ roll legend who has paved the way for many other women in the industry, so we’re honored to have her on our stage.
WashingtonExec: What differentiates the Kidney Ball from other black-tie events we will see this season?
John Wasson: As with many of the other awards ceremonies, our Mission Appeal will focus our audience on the cause, with amazing stories of bravery and optimism that remind everyone why our fundraising efforts matter. Where we think we are differentiated is what happens when dinner ends. At that time the dance floor opens up and the party really begins – if you want to see some of the biggest names in business, medicine, and government getting their groove on, the Kidney Ball is the place to be! I haven’t seen that kind of action at many other events.
WashingtonExec: How can people learn more about the Ball and sign up to attend?
John Wasson: To learn more about the Kidney Ball, visit www.kidneywdc.org.