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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Coach Popovich Helps Raise Money for Pediatric Cancer Patients

My October 30th post mentioned a benefit wine tasting event in Illinois featuring an appearance by San Antonio Spurs' Coach Gregg Popovich; here is the link to that item if you missed it:


Damien Casten, one of the hosts of the event, says that the charity wine tasting held on November 6th at A Taste of Vino, a wine shop in Hinsdale, raised $25,000 for Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation. Casten described the evening's festitivies (via email):

"Coach and Sean (Elliott) arrived about 6:00 and the event started around 6:30. We had a high end Chicago restaurant called Naha with us who donated all the food. Michael and Carrie Nahabedian, the owners, came out themselves to prepare and serve. The wine was different than any wine I've ever had before. I have never had as clear a sensation of tasting a living thing as with these wines. They literally changed in the glass any number of times. It was remarkable. We tasted various years from 1996 all the way back to 1966 at the end...

The event was interrupted in the middle by smoke alarms that brought out the fire engines thanks to a little too much smoke from the foie-gras that was being seared in the back. Coach and Sean were nice enough to sign one of the menus we had made up,
which I ran out to the truck. Hopefully it made some of the hoops fans who pulled Sunday night duty at the station happy.

Sean is really an informed and curious wine lover. Every time I poured him a wine, he had questions, comments and reactions. Seeing as its what I love to do as well, it was a real pleasure. Coach spent most of the evening tasting and chatting as well, though from what I heard he might have been asked a few more basketball questions...

The shoes, jerseys and ball that were donated by the Spurs generated $3500 on Ebay for Bear Necessities. Amazing. We also had tickets to the Bulls--Spurs game the next night donated by CBS. We gave two of them to Bear Necessities as a "Small Miracle" for one of their kids. As a result, a young girl fighting cancer sat with her Mom in the CBS corporate seats for the evening and saw a great game (the Spurs beat the Bulls in OT) and hopefully forgot about trips to the hospital and cancer for a while."

Casten stresses that all of the proceeds from the event went to Bear Necessities. About a fourth of that money was earmarked for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. Casten notes, "To date the money has provided any number of gas cards to families commuting back and forth to the New Orleans Children's Hospital, which has recently reopened, and 14 Small Miracles to kids affected by both Katrina and cancer. Check out the Small Miracles link on
for more info on what they do."

I asked Casten how Coach Popovich and Sean Elliott developed their interest in wines and this is Casten's reply: "Coach told me that he became interested in wines while working for the Air Force in California. He was close enough to Napa Valley that he could make the trip in one day with friends and he just became hooked. He's taken it with him ever since. Apparently he and Sean try to share good meals on the road when they can as it is a shared passion. Clearly, the two of them are friends. They have certainly been through a lot together.

Sean did not have a specific moment that he mentioned, but did say that tasting with Pop has taught him quite a bit. Whenever I poured him something he had specific questions and would compare the smells and flavors to other wines he has tasted in the past."

Casten notes that anyone who lives in the Chicagoland area--or has plans to be there for New Year's Eve--can welcome in 2006 and help Bear Necessities at the same time by purchasing a $125 ticket to a New Year's Eve Concert featuring Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers, who will be performing at the Blue Bayou in Wrigleyville; $50 from each ticket purchased will go to Bear Necessities' Hurricane Katrina relief efforts. He says, "I saw the band at a bar in New Orleans at Jazz Fest two years ago and have wanted to do something with them ever since. The only group I've ever seen that had as much energy was Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley--James Brown's former horn section. They are just a huge amount of fun to see live and I cannot think of a better way to ask people to help out than to bring a bit of New Orleans to Chicago and have a great time doing it." You can find out more about the group here:


posted by David Friedman @ 11:47 PM



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