With their eighth Lily’s Luau, the Badger alumni of Lily’s Fund raise money for epilepsy research.
For one night in January, Union South will transform from an ice-bound hall into a tropical paradise. This is the work of Lily’s Luau, the chief fundraiser for Lily’s Fund, an organization that supports epilepsy research at UW-Madison.
The event has become a particularly Badger occasion, with large numbers of alumni among the donors and all funding going to UW-Madison researchers.
“That’s our whole point,” says Anne Morgan Giroux ’86, one of the organization’s founders. “All of the money goes to epilepsy research right here at UW-Madison.”
Gifts to Lily’s Fund support two initiatives: a two-year fellowship, granted to a young scientist doing epilepsy-related research; and Grace Grants, which are $100,000 grants made, according to Giroux, for “cutting-edge research.”
The luau remains the organization’s biggest event, offering a silent auction (bids begin January 14), island feast, local celebrities, and dancing. It gives the campus and Madison community a tropical escape from winter.
In a (coco)nutshell, here’s what you need to know about Lily’s Fund:
- The name honors Lily Giroux, the daughter of the organization’s founders, Anne and David MS’06 Giroux. Lily was diagnosed with epilepsy at age two.
- One in 26 people will develop epilepsy at some point. That means that more people suffer from the condition than from multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and Parkinson’s combined.
- The first Lily’s Luau was in 2009. Some 200 people attended and raised $16,000. In 2015, it attracted more than 700 guests and raised $145,000.
- This year’s event will be the first to have “virtual guests”: people who register online to bid in the silent auction, even if they can’t attend in person.
- Attendees will include Kitt Reuter-Foss ’79, Music’82. The noted opera star — she’s a mezzo soprano — also sang at last year’s event. She supports the organization in part because she, too, has been diagnosed with epilepsy. She suffered a grand mal seizure in 2005.
- The current Lily’s Fund fellow is Antoine Madar, a researcher in the Department of Neuroscience. He’s the third fellow, and he received his two-year grant in 2015.
- The most recent Grace Grant recipient was Giulio Tononi, a professor of psychiatry. This year’s Grace Grant recipient will be announced at the luau.
- Grace Grants are named in honor of Grace Penwell, like Lily Giroux, a Madison-area teenager who suffers from epilepsy.