“Stand Up for Literacy Gala” at the Franklin Institute. BVTLive! was honored to be invited back after Howard’s “Cruise for a Cause Gala” last year; We were happy to partner again to knock this year’s event out of the park! BVTLive!’s own Bill Handy and Tony Forliano Jazz Trio provided entertainment for the evening. Bill played the piano in the VIP Lounge, while the Tony Forliano Jazz Trio played during the Silent Auction. Towards the end of the night, Bill transitioned from the piano to drums and all four performers came together in Franklin Hall to play while guests enjoyed a delicious meal followed by the comic stylings of Vinnie Brand and Alonzo Bodden, winner of Comedy Central’s Last Comic Standing.
Ryan’s teammates Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Cole Hamels, John Lannan, Kyle Kendrick, Laynce Nix, Mike Adams and Kevin Frandsen were all there to support the cause along with Phillies management Ruban Amaro and David Montgomery. Autographed sports memorabilia was available during the Silent Auction. Among the items was Ryan Howard’s personal bathrobe which sold for $200!
After meeting Ryan Howard, Bill only had wonderful things to say. “Ryan was so genuine, nice and appreciative. He went out of his way to thank everyone and couldn’t thank us enough. He even nicknamed me ‘Billy Instruments’ since I played both the piano and drums at the event. Ryan told me that he was a trombone player in high school.” Bill also got to meet Phillies pitcher, Cole Hamels. “Cole is one of my favorite Phillies. I have to admit, I was a bit star stuck.” Jimmy Rollins is also one of Bill’s favorite Phillies and had the opportunity to exchange a few words. “I was walking from the VIP Lounge to Franklin Hall carrying my drum throne. Jimmy was walking next to me and asked, do you always carry a stool around? I replied, better to be safe than sorry. We both shared a laugh.”
The Phillies management team was front and center while Bill and the Tony Forliano Jazz Trio were playing. Bill shared that they all seemed to be impressed while they were playing, turning their heads at times and paying close attention to the performance. “Ruban Amaro complimented me on the piano earlier in the night. I thought about asking him if they needed a ball park organist, but I figured I’d better quit while I was ahead.”
Playing at the event was not only a career accomplishment for Bill, but it hit home on a very personal level. Bill’s wife is an Assistant Principal in North Philadelphia and has dedicated her career to helping children learn to read. “As a musician I don’t get the opportunity often to contribute on that level, so playing this event was very special. Though my contributions were through music, it was for a cause she has worked so hard for.” Bill relayed the same message to Dr. William R Hite Jr., Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia who was also in attendance at Monday’s event.
The night ran flawlessly through the efforts of Gina DeGiovanni, Events Coordinator at The Franklin Institute. Franklin Hall looked amazing with flowers from the Blue Belle Flower Shoppe. Frog Commissary Catering did a wonderful job serving up a delicious meal, and the one and only Carlos Bakery from TLC’s “The Cake Boss” delivered a cake that would satisfy any sweet tooth.