SPAGIO—An Event Near & Dear To Our Hearts

Andy Betz, Chef Handke, Jenni Betz, Chef Hubert and Me

Recently SPAGIO, SPAGIO Cellars and the Pleasure Guild of Nationwide Children’s Hospital put on a masterful culinary event, the 14th Annual Celebration of Wine, Food and Dining with the Stars.

This event is remarkable in many ways. Not only does it bring some of the top culinary prowess to Columbus, but it benefits the pediatric hospice and palliative care programs at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

What is most remarkable to me is that Chef Hubert Seifert, his wife Helga and his daughter Nicole have dedicated themselves to this cause for 14 years. And by extension, they have inspired over 15 chefs to give their time and energy to this cause year after year. As I see it, each one of these people has given a little piece of themselves to our son TJ. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

Our Sweet Boy, TJ

For those of you who don’t already know, TJ is our beautiful son who passed away almost two years ago from a neuro-metabolic condition called Leigh Syndrome. For my husband Troy and me, he is the light of our lives and the inspiration behind nearly everything we do.

Over the last few years, the Seiferts and I have developed a special bond through this event. This year, I was thrilled when they asked if they could print a poem I wrote about TJ in their program. By the way, the Pleasure Guild will be reading this poem aloud during their presentation of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Palace Theatre on March 13 at 2:00pm (also benefitting palliative care and hospice). Thank you Pleasure Guild. It will be a fantastic show for the same great cause, so buy a ticket for something fun to do this Sunday.

Back to the poem. One of the biggest pleasures in my life is sharing TJ, so I hope reading this poem gives you a feel for just how amazing he was:

By Carole M. Amber

A feat so rare, extraordinary and right
Taught with wisdom, courage, exuberance and light

You led by example, you showed us the way
To live in each moment, take joy in each day

Your calm, quiet knowing… “It will all be ok”
“Mom, Dad and loved ones, it must be this way”

“Accept what is here, there is no need to fear”
“It’s all how it should be, the path is clear”

And all the while… coos, smiles and laughs of delight
As if there was not one reason for fright

Surrounded by love, so deep and true
You found no need, at all, to be blue

With wisdom, acceptance, peace, love and joy
You lived your life this way, precious boy

A feat for all those you touched to admire
Your exceptional lessons will forever inspire

TJ, my sweet, your legacy is strong
You taught us the secrets of life—you live on

If TJ taught me anything, it is the importance of acceptance. He had this wise “knowing” that in every moment he was in exactly the right place—at exactly the right time. He fully and completely accepted his fate. And all the while, he was able to experience true joy. I don’t know how he did it, but it is my life’s mission to live this way too.

I still have a lot to learn, I’m afraid. I’m working on it every day. But attending events like the Celebration of Wine, Food and Dining with the Stars, sharing TJ’s poem and spending the evening with people who give themselves to this cause—helps me see that perhaps I am exactly in the right place, at exactly the right time.

This became even clearer as I spent much of the evening with the Betz family. Jenni and Andy Betz have an adorable girl Celia, who has Batten disease (they also have a son Tucker). They came to the event with high spirits and loving family members in tow. We shared tears, laughter and an unspoken understanding held by all those who have walked the path of loving a child with a fatal disease. This night is for our children, and this night is for us.

To Chef Hubert, Helga, Nicole, the Pleasure Guild, the SPAGIO staff and all generous chefs who donated their time and energy to a cause so near and dear to our hearts—TJ, Troy and I thank you.

Up next… We celebrate the world-class chefs who so kindly contributed to this event. Stay tuned to learn their hidden secrets, restaurant recommendations and tips for finding the BEST food in the world.

To see more photos from the event, see our facebook page.

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