Doctors Without Walls – Santa Barbara Street Medicine has a unique mission: providing healthcare to homeless and low income individuals through mobile clinics. So it was only fitting that its fundraiser also be unique: an enchanting evening in Elings Park with a gourmet dinner, entertainment, live music, dancing, and hot air balloon rides. A sold-out crowd of 300 supporters gathered last Saturday, September 10, on the upper soccer field at Elings for the event.
During the cocktail hour, guests mingled in the scenic park environment while the impressive Malone Aerialists performed and Bruce Goldish and then the Bryan Titus Trio provided great music. Colorful hot air balloons surrounded the event area and once the winds died down, guests took turns soaring above Elings on tethered balloon rides.
John Palminteri welcomed the crowd and introduced medical director Dr. Jason Prystowsky who explained Doctors Without Walls’ mission. Board president Paul Jaconette and Maria Long also addressed the audience, but this was not an evening of speeches, but rather one of amusement, and all for a worthy cause.
During the dinner hour, Andrew Firestone acted as Master of Ceremonies and John Palminteri, Catherine Remak, and Lin Aubuchon all made appearances. La Boheme Dance Group wowed the crowd. Omni Catering outdid itself with pesto-glazed wild salmon, tri-tip, and lemon herb risotto and other side dishes, all served piping hot in the natural park setting. With passionate zeal for the cause, Firestone lead a lively auction, then Hollywood U2 started the dance tunes and the dance floor quickly filled.
Doctors Without Walls (DWW) sets up mobile medical clinics in Pershing Park and Alameda Park each week where its volunteer physicians, nurses, pre-med students and others serve homeless and low-income individuals.
Recognizing the special needs of homeless women, DWW also operates the Women’s Free Homeless Clinic at Transition House three Fridays per month. Staffed by an internist, podiatrist, and other healthcare professionals, the Clinic offers medical care and mental health counseling, as well as acupuncture, showers, a hot lunch by Anthony’s Organic Soup Kitchen, laundry services, donated clothing and hygiene items, and referrals to other services.
Doctors Without Walls has only one paid staff person, its extremely talented and dedicated executive director, Maria Long, who oversees 14 interns and 230 volunteers, including 19 physicians. Last year, DWW served 525 unduplicated clients through 1,700 visits.
DWW is also on call 24/7 to respond to medical emergencies, and thanks to a recent grant from the Women’s Fund of Santa Barbara, it now has a mobile medical van to greatly facilitate this service. The van has also enabled DWW to expand its service to the Lompoc area. Twice per month, a five-person medical team visits Lompoc to serve the homeless who previously did not have access to healthcare. The working poor are also seen by the team.
Doctors Without Walls has beneficiaries beyond the homeless and low-income individuals it serves. Many of the volunteers are pre-med students who receive valuable training and will become part of the next generation of humanitarian healthcare workers. The community as a whole benefits too from the work of DWW through the enormous cost savings to the local healthcare system. By providing treatment before medical conditions become emergencies, DWW significantly reduces the number of emergency room visits.
The event was produced by Mike Lazaro of Carp Events.
For more information on Doctors Without Walls or to make an online donation, go to sbdww.org