If there's a will, there's a way!
Across the country, fundraisers, galas and charity events were put on hold once the coronavirus pandemic put an end to large gatherings.
But on Friday, Sept. 4, Multiple Sclerosis advocate Nancy Davis welcomed hundreds of guests to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. for a special reimagined Race to Erase MS Gala. Instead of heading inside a prestigious hotel ballroom like in the annual event's 27-year history, guests were invited to "Drive-In" for an evening of music, celebration, fundraising and awareness for the life-altering disease.
"It was important to me to just get the ball rolling again and we need to still fund research for MS," Nancy explained before kicking off the star-studded event. "That's what we do. We do it every year. We have great research going on and it's so important not to stop that ball rolling."
Instead of a traditional red carpet filled with reporters, celebrities including Maureen McCormick, Victoria Justice, Anne Heche and Mark-Paul Gosselaar posed in their cars for just one or two photographers before driving to their assigned parking spots separated by six feet.
Gift bags delivered in car trunks at the start of the event included face coverings and hand sanitizer. A separate bag was filled with edible treats from Penne Straws by Pasta Snacks, Snack Pop popcorn and other generous sponsors.
Dinner, including a delicious fried chicken sandwich and ice cream, was catered by celeb-favorite Craig's and safely delivered in to-go style lunchboxes. In fact, meal time appeared to be one of the few occasions attendees removed their masks while in their cars.
"Even though we're in a pandemic," Loni Love shared on the carpet, "I was so happy that the organizers and Nancy were able to come up with a way for us to still raise money, still give attention to this deadly disease and I just have to support something like this."
Derek Hough added, "During these times, it's about being innovative and finding ways to still gather in a safe way, still raise awareness, still be a force for good but in a safe, safe way."
While some elements of the annual gala changed, others stayed consistent. Guests were still treated to live performances from a variety of artists including Andy Grammer, Eric Benét and Siedah Garrett.
"You can expect my first performance to a bunch of cars, which I think is going to be unbelievable," Andy shared before performing his biggest hits. "I've never done it before and I'm super excited to figure it out."
A live and silent auction was still held during the event, but primarily done virtually by scanning a QR code. Items included everything from a 30-minute reading with Hollywood medium Tyler Henry to a mini Australian labradoodle. And yes, there was a bidding war for both.
Tommy Hilfiger provided the fashion show for this year by unveiling a virtual presentation of his new Fall 2020 Adaptive Collection on big screens spread throughout the parking lot.
And throughout the program, guests were encouraged to honk their horns and flash their vehicle lights as a way to cheer.
"There's an expression I like to use," Derek explained. "Where focus goes, energy flows…I think it's important to be smart but I think it's also important to be focused on what's good as well to sort of magnify it."
Event organizers deserve credit for executing an event that ended up raising more than $1.4 million.
And after following guidance from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control Prevention, the drive-in experience is proof that charity events can still move forward safely.
To see more highlights from the star-studded 2020 Drive-In to Erase MS gala, keep scrolling below.