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Toby's Take: Honored Guests, Indeed

People watching firework display at Treads and Threads

December 12, 2022

A few hundred million people were going through the same thing, so Brandi Henderson wasn’t about to think the universe was picking on her. Still, it was a lot.

An oncology nurse the past 14 years, Henderson and her husband, Bryan, didn’t have a lot of options for 2 children they were homeschooling when the pandemic hit.

“We came to work every day, 5 days a week, on the weekends. We just wore our masks. We had just found out that my stepdad was diagnosed with stage IV cancer at that time, too. So we were really trying to make sure we were cautious because we didn't want him to get anything on top of his treatments.”

Sadly, her stepfather has since died. And, of course, Brandi worked full-time. She was a part of the army of frontline workers in healthcare during the worst of COVID-19. Little did she know she and Bryan would get an invitation to the Party of the Year as a thank-you.

The party with a purpose

The Hendersons were 2 of several hundred frontliners from The University of Kansas Health System who attended free of charge, thanks to donations from sponsors, Treads & Threads, the party with a purpose and massive fundraiser held each September.

“Our hope is that frontline heroes during the pandemic feel recognized, appreciated and honored,” said Shawn Long, vice president of philanthropy and corporate outreach at our health system. “The business community feels really good about supporting this financially, an effort to say thank you to our frontline folks.”

Like many good ideas, this came about almost by accident. Treads & Threads – black-tie, mainly outdoors, always featuring a musical headliner – has been a mainstay on the Kansas City philanthropic calendar for 2 decades at Kansas Speedway. Racing schedules meant the health system had to find a different venue in 2022, and they found a stunning one. Guests ate, drank and danced in the parking lot between Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiums at the Truman Sports Complex and could make their way into both stadiums to hang out.

It was just amazing that people donated so many extra tickets for so many frontline workers. There were so many of us there, and I couldn't ask for a better experience or evening with my friends and my husband. - Brandi Henderson

Oncology nurse

Grateful to party in person

Long says the idea of sponsors using their allotted tickets to donate to healthcare heroes first surfaced at the health system’s annual Hall of Fame dinner in June. Both events went dark the past couple of years because of the pandemic. This just seemed like a great way to return to in-person.

“I would like to think that this is a platform we are going to continue to go grow and offer these kinds of opportunities for our frontline heroes moving forward,” Long said. “It makes the donor feel really good about the amount of money that they're sending to the event in support of our frontline heroes.”

Before, during and after country supergroup Alabama played, the Hendersons were arm-in-arm with colleagues, nearly forgetting for one night what all they had been through.

“That was just awesome,” Henderson said. “I would never have expected it. It was just amazing that people donated so many extra tickets for so many frontline workers. There were so many of us there, and I couldn't ask for a better experience or evening with my friends and my husband.”

And there’s more than one purpose

Her friend and colleague, Aketia Seymour, mostly hung out on the Arrowhead side and thought the same thing. Seymour is also an oncology nurse and spends her days administering chemotherapy. That can be draining.

“I love what I do,” she said. “I love taking care of the patients. They make me feel special. Just about every day they make me cry for being such special warriors, the cancer patients. It’s nice to be appreciated.”

Treads & Threads raised a record $2.3 million this year with proceeds earmarked for our new Proton Therapy Center and to help cancer patients in general. Long’s team will announce plans for 2023 soon. He’s certain a portion of the partygoers will be healthcare heroes again. They deserve a party as much as anyone.

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