‘Life as a Zebra’ holds benefit
Katie Dama Jaskolski and Allie Dama are sisters from Lansing. A few years ago, they were both separately diagnosed with invisible illnesses.
Katie, 32, was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Dysautonomia (POTS). Her younger sister, Allie, 26, was diagnosed with Polyarteritis Nodosa Vasculitis (PAN).
The two created the Life as a Zebra Foundation in 2012. The name comes from a medical school saying. Students are taught to diagnose patients based on the condition that’s most likely. “When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.” While horses are a likely explanation, zebras are less likely. A person with a rare medical condition is then a medical zebra.
Saturday, April 12 the Life as a Zebra Foundation hosted the third annual benefit concert at the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center in Lansing.
The goal of the organization and benefit was never to put a spotlight solely on the strength of the sisters’ dedication to living a better life. It was to raise awareness and money for all invisible illnesses.
While the concert brought live music from two stars, Chris Trapper of The Push Stars and The Voice’s Tony Lucca, the spotlight shone ever so brightly on the Dama sisters.
With their moving personal stories of trial, triumphs and testimonies, all those in attendance clearly felt the importance. The message of the night was clear, despite the physical appearance of any sickness.
Dama spoke about the mission of the benefit. “The goal of tonight’s event is to raise awareness and funds for invisible illness research,” Dama said.
While there are other foundations and organizations working to provide research, funds and looking for cures, the Life as a Zebra Foundation is special. “Our foundation is unique in that it’s more of an umbrella, and encompasses all of the invisible illnesses,” Dama Jaskolski said.
The foundation’s primary purpose is to fund the education, prevention, treatment, and research of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Dysautonomia, and Vasculitis.
The event showcased just how inspiring these two ladies are. At 26 and 32, these beautiful ladies have been through the most unglamorous, excruciating health battles – seizures, chemotherapy, neck and back braces. At 26 and 32, these two sisters know more about what it means to truly, fully live a life without worry or regrets.
Following the speeches, and silent auction, guests were directed to move from the ballroom to the auditorium for the concert.
Boston-native Chris Trapper brought light-hearted entertainment to the stage in the form of live music with a side of sarcasm.
The “Voice” contestant Tony Lucca took the stage following Trapper for an intimate, soulful performance. Dedicating the final song to the inspirational sisters, there was hardly a dry eye in the room.
Dama Jaskolski spoke about the artists’ support off the stage. “
Tony Lucca, Chris Trapper, they’ve become honorary zebras,” Dama Jaskolski said.
“They’ve embraced the foundation too, which is so cool because they haven’t just come in and done their music and left. They want to know all about it, so that’s just so cool too.”
Perhaps the coolest part of the entire night is the amount of cold hard cash raised from the evening. Following the concert, the announcement was made that the fundraiser had raised nearly $27,000 that night.
For more information on the Life as a Zebra Foundation, visit www.zebranation.org