Today is my buddy Dave Koz’s birthday. I normally don’t use last names here but it makes sense with the story I’m about to tell. If you're not familiar with Dave, he's a Grammy-nominated smooth jazz saxophonist.
Dave had a birthday celebration this weekend in San Francisco. It was so much fun to hang with him and so many of the great people I’ve met through him. It was one of those weekends where even if I didn’t already know someone, they felt like an instant friend because we had Dave in common.
In the 20 years that I’ve known him, Dave has never been anything but a stand-up guy. In fact, he’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. He returns every phone call or email, he is considerate, he does not gossip (or at least almost never). He’s just a solid citizen. I may know people who don't like smooth jazz, but I know absolutely no one who doesn't like Dave. It is impossible not to like him.
Of my many Dave Koz stories, this is my favorite. In 2005, my sister and I decided to throw our parents a surprise party on the 50th anniversary of their engagement because because we weren’t sure what kind of shape mom would be in when their 50th wedding anniversary rolled around. She had developed Parkinson’s Disease and some kind of brain cognitive disorder (they weren’t actually calling it Alzheimers) and she seemed to be slipping away quickly. She was already growing less mobile and using a walker, plus she had begun to get flustered very easily if she felt overwhelmed or in an unfamiliar situation, so we decided to hold the afternoon party at the residential continuing care facility where our parents lived in North Carolina.
I asked Dave if he’d make a video to wish them happy anniversary because they knew and loved Dave. He said he could do better than that. In some kind of cosmic twist of fate, he was on tour and was playing in my home town the night of the party.
Dave walked into the event, and my mom’s face lit up with a smile a mile wide. He played “In The Mood,” one of her all time favorites, and played it right to mom. At a time when her mind was leaving her, Dave created a brand new beautiful memory for her and for my father, years after they thought they were past creating new ones. Dave left to get ready for his concert and several of the elderly ladies in their 80s came up to me to tell me how cute Dave was, how talented he was, and, more importantly, how they really, really hoped he made it one day.
Happily, even by then, he’d more than “made it” and he continues, seven Grammy nominations in, to “make it” very, very successfully.
Dave’s one of those guys who’s the first to jump in when people need help and for years, his main charity has been the Starlight Children’s Foundation. Starlight helps sick children and their families around the world from helping with their treatment, offering educational programs, providing distraction therapy, and connecting families with each other to make them feel less isolated. They incorporate social media so that sick kids can chat with other sick kids; they even offer events including cruises and movie premieres to help families create special memories together, just like Dave did for my mom. Dave now has his own brand of wine available through Whole Foods (and it’s delicious). Proceeds go to Starlight Foundation.
March 27: Starlight Foundation
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86 down, 289 to go!!