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This past Saturday night over 150 supporters attended a fundraising event at the Florin Road Arts and Business Complex in South Sacramento for Marissa Grant, 16, a Sacramento area teen who suffered cardiac arrest on January 27, 2011 while attending classes at Natomas High School.
The event was hosted by “The Friends of Michele Grant,” a group that includes Grant’s coworkers, friends and concerned members of the community who came together to provide financial and emotional support as Marissa fights her way back from the effects of being deprived of oxygen for 8-10 minutes before paramedics arrived to revive her.
“We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and love,” stated Michele Grant during her brief appearance at the microphone as she thanked both those in attendance and those who invested countless hours to make the event, “An Evening for Marissa,” a success.
The evening’s program consisted of opening remarks by Joe Pollakoff, Shonna McDaniels and Michele Grant. The MC duties were handled by Pollakoff’s daughter Natasha.
The evening consisted of a full slate of entertainment, a raffle, and a sit-down homemade dinner that included baked chicken, pasta, fresh salad and a variety of side dishes.
Nationally known poet Terry Moore set the tone for the evening with his poem entitled, “Two Seconds.”
Moore alternated between whimsical musings about making an impulse purchase in two seconds and how precious and fragile life can be in that same span of time.
The audience really responded when Moore emphasized that tomorrow is not promised and that everyone should take the time to practice forgiveness and appreciate those in their lives with demonstrable showings of love and affection by reaching out to them today.
Tina B’s Sacramento Soul Line Dancers then showed the crowd some of their unique dance steps to the songs, “Step Off,” “The Cupid Shuffle” and “Wobble Baby Wobble.”
“It is so nice to see what is happening here and to be a part of this,” stated Tina B., who volunteered her dancers to perform at the event after hearing about it from a coworker.
“I am glad to support this mother who’s going through something similar to what my mother went through many years ago,” said Tina B.
Marissa Grant’s care, comfort and rehabilitation were foremost on everyone’s mind throughout the evening.
Marissa attended the event and was exquisitely coiffed and beautifully attired in a taupe blouse and jeans for the evening held in her honor. Her youthful appearance belied the difficult circumstances she endured, and her struggle to regain her health served as the inspiration and purpose for the occasion.
The quiet and reserved teen graciously maintained her poise and dignity before tiring and returning home to rest about midway through the evening.
Marissa’s Aunt, Gayle Bailey, came from the Bay Area to attend the event and contribute to the fundraising efforts.
“I am so thankful that so many people came out to support my niece,” stated Bailey. “I am praying that the Lord heals her body and makes her whole again.”
Local musician and DJ Robert Williams played a variety of gospel, jazz and R&B music while attendees took turns being served at the buffet line set up in the Obama Room.
The foyer was tastefully set up with covered tables adorned with votive candles that surrounded the area that served as the DJ booth and temporary stage.
Once the attendees were served and settled in seats, the evening’s activities proceeded forward.
Natasha Pollakoff sought help from audience members to pull the winning raffle tickets from a basket and announced the numbers, much to the delight of the winners.
Joseph Lacefield first took the stage, leading about a dozen members of the local a cappella group, “Sticky Notes.”
Their 20 minute set of gospel music included the songs, “Ain’t No Rock,” “Be Unto Your Name,” “Awesome God,” “Exalt the Lord,” “Deep Calls to Deep” and “Lead Me to Rest.”
Evangelist Raymond Coats followed with a soulful a cappella rendition of the classic song first made famous by the Hollies, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.”
After more raffle prizes were given away by Natasha Pollakoff, the featured group for the evening, the Spiritual Harmonizers, took over the entertainment and proceeded to fill the building with their well-rehearsed combination of vocals and live gospel music.
The Spiritual Harmonizers consist of Doyle Bryant, Larry Stephens and Earl Peeples on lead vocals with Eric Canada providing supporting vocals. Musicians include Tony Marshall on keyboard, Eucerean Harris on drums, Jimmy Bray on percussion, Norman Coats on lead guitar and Preston Hayes on bass guitar.
The selections performed by the group included “While I Run This Race,” “This Old World,” ”Holding On,” “Be Alright,” “Since I Found Jesus” and “Another Blessing.”
The messages conveyed in their music provided a fitting culmination of the evening’s entertainment. It reminded everyone in the audience of the blessings conferred upon Marissa Grant and the entire extended Grant family to have Marissa well on the road towards rehabilitation from her illness and medical condition.
Known as Long QT syndrome (LQTS), the illness is a congenital disorder that is very difficult to detect and is known to cause cardiac arrest and seemingly inexplicable sudden death by natural causes.
Danielle Grant, one of Marissa’s older siblings, described how everyone in the family was extremely worried about Marissa and how that concern extended to Michele, who practically lived at the hospital with her during the first few months after she fell ill.
Damarrus Grant, Marissa’s older brother, indicated that the past year “went by so quick.”
“It has been a reality check that has made my faith in God much stronger,” said Damarrus.
“Marissa is getting better every day; she is looking better and she fights hard every day,” stated Danielle.
Once the evening came to a close and the attendees cleared the building, “The Friends of Michele Grant” were united in their belief that the evening had been a success both financially and in terms of showing community support for a family during their time of need.
“People really showed how much they cared,” stated Joe Pollakoff, a colleague of Michele Grant’s who is credited as the individual who carried the idea of holding a fundraiser to others and organized the individuals that contributed to making the event a success.
“I thought the event was magnificent,” stated Shonna McDaniels, who arranged for the use of the building where she is the Director of the Sojourner Truth Multicultural Art Museum.
“I was pleased to see all of the support - it was a wonderful night,” said McDaniels.
Anyone who is interested in assisting the family by donating vacation time to Michele Grant, or who simply desires to make a financial contribution to assist Marissa in her rehabilitation may contact Joe Pollakoff at (916) 801-3673 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Michele Grant at (916) 501-5917 or via email at email@example.com. Michele Grant may also be contacted at P.O. BOX 348324, Sacramento, CA 95834.