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We’re very happy to announce that today we’re talking about the SEARCH Foundation. And if you’ve been following us for a while, you’ve probably heard of it. But even if you haven’t, this is definitely an episode you want to watch. Because the SEARCH Foundation showcases event profs at its best – by getting together and being there for each other. By providing financial aid to events, meetings and catering professionals who are battling very complex illnesses.

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Because this is a topic so near and dear to our hearts, we decided it was more than time #EventIcons did a whole show on it. And to help us out, we welcome two guests who know all there is to know about the SEARCH Foundation. Kate Patay, Patrick McMichael and Bobby Dutton join our lovely host Will Curran to let you know all about this incredible cause. Press play now and join them on a brand new edition of #EventIcons!

What Is The SEARCH Foundation?

“SEARCH Foundation actually stands for Special Event Assistance Relief and Crisis Help”, Kate explains. “So anyone in the industry that has a catastrophic illness, an accident, a loss of any kind, can apply for funds directly from SEARCH”. Patrick actually heads up the crisis relief committee.

“It’s been a third of my life that I’ve given to the SEARCH Foundation”, he says. “And really, what it is for me, for our industry, it’s a hug. And it doesn’t really matter which discipline you’re within, that’s really what it’s about, it’s about helping one another. It’s a high five and a hug to a friend, we all need help from time to time. And monetary help goes a long way, let’s face it. So, for me, it’s the giveback, you know? And the SEARCH Foundation is a way to pick people up”.

The Structure Of The SEARCH Foundation

“There is a board, we’re all entirely volunteers”, Bobby explains. “So, we do meet a few times a year and it’s all on our own dime. And I think that’s important to emphasize, if people are contributing to the cause, it’s not paying for our dinners and drinks and travel. Rest assured, we’re eating and drinking and traveling. But that’s not coming out of the fund or anything like that. We do have one executive director that helps maintain all of the workflow of things, and that’s a huge part of the structure. But for the most part, it’s entirely volunteer-driven”.

A Little Bit Of History

“The SEARCH Foundation actually started in New York City at the height of the AIDS epidemic”, explains Kate. “We had event professionals in crisis, we didn’t know why people were sick, we didn’t know why people were dying, and we wanted to help. As a community, that’s what we do. We’re in hospitality, so we help people for a living. And it started as a grassroots, privately funded, and people started reaching out on top of that. So it changed the scope a little bit to include any type of illness. And then in 2015 when Hurricane Katrina hit, people were reaching out for different types of crisis. They lost their homes, they lost their businesses. There were all these natural disasters, the wildfire. So the scope changed yet again”.

“In the 80s, they weren’t aware of what was happening and we needed help”, Patrick adds. “The diversity I think, we’re such a diverse industry as it is. So our ability to help each other, it’s for event professionals, by event professionals, that really is where it’s at. But us being able to lend that helping hand was a big deal. And when Katrina came around, that’s when things really began to gel for the SEARCH Foundation. Because we realized that this was more than just some individuals that were doing well that were willing to help other people. Really, that’s when it just launched industry-wide”.

Getting In Touch With The SEARCH Foundation

Will is curious to know what the most common scenarios are for someone to get in touch with SEARCH. “I can list scenarios for days, as the crisis relief chair”, says Patrick. “It’s the toughest job that I have. I’m not paid a dollar for it, and I would never trade it for the world. But funny enough, it is like, you sit there in your chair, you watch the news come on. You see a national disaster come in, or what we’re dealing with right now. I hate to use the C-word, but the coronavirus. I’m watching this and I feel like I’m a newsagent, like I’m a first responder”.

“I feel like in general, the times where we can really shine for people and come through when they need us most is when people are just overwhelmed and buried from these scenarios. And they’re lost, they’re struggling”, adds Bobby. And Kate adds that “all the cases are anonymous too. People apply and they’re vetted, make sure all the information’s there. And all of the information’s redacted, so it goes to the crisis committee that Patrick heads up, and they score it on a rubric. So, it’s not of who it is or who you know at all, it’s truly based on that level of crisis that they’re in at that point in time”.

The Process

“So like we said, there’s a rubric”, says Kate. “You’ve got to meet certain criteria, prove that you’re in the event industry, things along those lines. All of that’s online, you can actually see it on the website how you apply for crisis help. And you have to provide backup documentation, truly show the crisis. And like we said, that’s why everything’s redacted so that we don’t know who it is, no one on the crisis relief committee has any idea who these people are. But it goes through the executive director to ensure that they truly do meet all of the criteria to be in crisis, whether that’s a natural disaster, an accident, or some sort of medical catastrophe”.

And when it comes to who this is for, Kate lays it down. “Catering, meeting, event, and hospitality professionals is in our mission statement. So if you fall within that in any way, shape or form. We obviously don’t give out details of any cases, but people have been willing to share. It doesn’t matter what your role is in it, you can be the CEO or you could be the busboy. If you need help, if you’re in our industry, that’s what we’re there for”.

So Many Places, So Many People To Help…

An important thing to mention is that the SEARCH Foundation operates on an international scale. And because of this, Will wonders how they manage to keep up, considering how much is going on in the world. “Everyone’s got their job, basically, that they do with SEARCH, and what they’re in charge of”, Kate explains. “As Bobby said, he’s brands and assets, he makes sure that we’re always on point, everything we put out there is on brand and looks amazing for it. Patrick takes care of the crisis relief, we have an outreach one. And we really rely a lot on our supporters, people that know who SEARCH is, that donate to us. They jump in, I see it more times than not on social media, on Facebook, that you see someone posting something that’s maybe not great”.

“It’s the SEARCH army, man. That’s where awareness is so important”, adds Patrick. “And when we talk about brand initiatives and things of that nature and keeping a consistent message, it is so important. Because we rely on the SEARCH army to spread that word. We need the SEARCH team, all of our supporters to spread that word”.

“And to that point, people spread the word and we get a lot of cases and people that request help”, says Kate. “Year over year, we receive 48% more cases than the year prior. That’s how quick this need grows, this is how much more we need support, and people to jump on board for the SEARCH 100. And continue giving, and donor, whether that’s individual or corporate”.

The SEARCH 100

With so many people looking for help, and the SEARCH Foundation wanting to help, an increase of resources is obviously needed. This is where the SEARCH 100 comes in. “It was created directly as a response to this increasing need. Because we felt with the growth of the people that need help, we can only have so many parties”, Bobby explains. “We can only sell tickets for so much every year. We needed something that was sustainable and growing, and really contributing to the money coming in to help us continue to fund these qualified cases”.

“So the SEARCH 100 was created by our last chair, Aaron Kaufman, from Fifth Element up in Canada. And it was a really cool opportunity to allow ongoing donations on a monthly basis. So, it was originally 100 slots, and we said, “Who are the 100 people that can step up and give $100 every month indefinitely?” And we’ve filled those slots since, and actually, grown beyond the 100 mark. And if you crunch the numbers, that’s directly funding a lot of new cases, all the time. Which is incredible”, he adds.

The Big Event!

“Our annual signature event, it’s at TSE Catersource this year, in Las Vegas”, says Kate. “It is three weeks from today, March 11th. It’s being hosted by Caesars Entertainment and we have so many amazing sponsors for it. Expect, probably, four or five, 600 people, somewhere in that range. It’s the amazing people in the industry that want to give back. And let’s be real, it’s a C&B scene at the same time, it’s the event that you definitely want to get a ticket to”.

“But it’s all of the event people putting in all that they’ve got to put on an over the top show for you. So this year we’ve got Jordan Kahn Orchestra, who’s donated his services, and so many incredible sponsors. There are still a few VIP booths available for that, but it’s the after-hours party, so it goes 9:30 PM to 1:30 AM on Wednesday, March 11th. And you can get tickets online. Or, if you want to add them on to your TSE or Catersource registration, they sell tickets for us as well”, she adds.

More Ways To Help Out The SEARCH Foundation

“I would say that SEARCH is unique in the sense that it’s not as though it’s a chapter, right?”, says Patrick. “We’re an international board if you will. And so, it’s important that people understand that we do need some boots on the ground. If you know that a SEARCH event is coming to town, or something’s being put together, we would love nothing more than for some people to reach out and be volunteers for us that are there. At a local chapter level, it tends to be a little easier”.

“As an international foundation, it can be a little bit tougher for us, when we’re traveling from one place to the next. So, any help is greatly appreciated. And just reach out to the three of us, reach out just via the website, we would love to have some more hands”, he adds.

Advice From The Heart

As you know, at the end of every episode, we ask our guests for the ultimate tip they would give an event prof. But this time around, Will wants our lovely guests to give advice to people going through some tough times. “My biggest thing I would say is to speak up”, says Kate. “I think there’s a stigma that comes with asking for help in any part of your life. And to be able to raise your hand and say, “I need you guys. Can you be here for me?”

“Whether that’s your close circle of friends, whether it’s the SEARCH Foundation, whether it’s just someone in the industry or something that can help you grow your business in some way or meet the right person, to open that door. So, to just know that the right people are out there and work with them, and find them and surround yourself with really good people, and if you need a hand, just ask. Someone will reach back out, I promise”.

“I think on a different note, there’s a lot of people who aren’t necessarily experiencing an actual crisis but like to talk about how stressed or busy they are“, says Bobby. “I think that’s kind of a problem in our industry right now. And all of us can relate. So, you know, focus on what’s important. Engage with the community, help the people that really need the help. And manage your time in a way that’s not only getting yourself in a good place but getting help to the people that actually do experience the crisis for real”.


And that’s a wrap on this week’s edition of #EventIcons! Make sure you visit the SEARCH Foundation and consider helping out in whichever way you can. Remember, we’re here for each other. And don’t forget to tune in next week for another amazing edition of the show, with even more iconic conversations!


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Will Curran

Author Will Curran

Information junkie, energetic, and work-a-holic are just some of the words we can use to describe Will Curran. Aside from spending 20 out of 24 hours a day working as the Chief Event Einstein of Endless Events, you can catch Will ordering a chai latte or watching The Flash with his cats. He is also well known for his love of all things pretzels.

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