MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins were just about ready to wrap up their live auction to raise funds in support of neurodegenerative disorder research -- but suddenly, without any warning, star third baseman Royce Lewis and fiancée Samantha Hobart stepped onto the stage and paused the proceedings.
The couple had been so moved by the stories told throughout the evening to highlight the importance of the medical research by the University of Minnesota and M Health Fairview that they felt compelled to act. Without prompting, they decided to tack on another package to the auction -- lunch with them, tickets and batting practice passes to a game.
It package sold for $10,000 -- the most for any lot in that auction.
All of that will contribute to the more than $300,000 raised for research and families impacted by neurological disease as part of the 19th Annual Diamond Awards on Thursday night -- with Lewis and Hobart making a big statement for their community at their first taste of the annual fundraiser.
“We kind of looked back on it when we got to the hotel room, like, ‘Did that really just happen?’” Lewis said.
The Diamond Awards have always been a means for the Twins to raise funds for research and care revolving around ataxia, ALS, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and Parkinson’s disease, something important for them due to the legacy of the beloved Bob Allison, whose post-career battle with a rare neurodegenerative disorder led to his death at age 60.
This edition of the event included a heartfelt testimony at the podium from Dr. Jerrold Vitek, the head of the neurology department at the University of Minnesota, who recounted his experience in surgeries that have helped to alleviate symptoms of Parkinson’s and shared his stories of improving quality of life for such patients -- and the importance of eliminating those diagnoses altogether in the future.
He also shared a video essay of his relationship with childhood friend and local entrepreneur Larry Schneiderman (of Schneiderman’s Furniture), who has been his patient throughout a Parkinson’s battle for more than a decade. That resonated deeply with both Lewis and Hobart.
“It was during his speech where I think we both felt very moved, and I could tell [Sam] was getting teary-eyed about a lot of stuff,” Lewis said. “Not fully crying, but she was definitely feeling it, and she’s like, ‘We need to do something else, because his research means a lot.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, absolutely.’ We were thinking on it right then.”
With some help from team media relations guru Dustin Morse, the couple’s spur-of-the-moment idea became reality -- and a five-figure donation for the cause, far beyond what Lewis and Hobart could have imagined.
“It hits home for us to help donate in any way possible, whether that’s our own personal finances or just giving in any way we can, and I felt like maybe giving my time was something that we could do,” Lewis said. “I kind of thought at first, like, ‘Hopefully a couple hundred dollars. But at least it’s something.’
“And it turned into $10,000, and I thought that was very special. I couldn’t be more thankful for that.”