What happens when you combine real-time art with a group of people gathered in a room to celebrate success and raise money for a good cause? A little bit of magic.
That’s what happened recently when nationally recognized artist Erik Wahl painted in real-time during an evening recognizing top advisors of Protective Life’s ProEquities division. The banquet, a celebratory dinner for high-performing ProEquities independent advisors, raised funds for the good causes of the Ronald McDonald House through an auction, drawing, and giveaway of Wahl’s highly valued art. This occasion was just one of many initiatives exemplifying Protective Life Corporation’s commitment to Ronald McDonald Houses nationwide.
“Creativity, innovation, and risk are critical to navigate the future of business,” Wahl says. He dazzled the crowd with a high-energy performance, during which he painted three works while speaking about the connection between art, innovation, and business. The final result: three paintings of iconic subjects — Albert Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, and the American Eagle.
“This definitely wasn’t a typical business meeting,” said Chris Flint, president and CEO of ProEquities. A wholly owned subsidiary of Protective Life, ProEquities is an independent broker/dealer that supports more than 900 independent advisors nationwide. “Erik encouraged our advisors to think about new ways of creating innovative solutions. And we, in turn, got to help an organization that helps families in need.”
One painting was auctioned off to benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities.
“We purchased the Eagle painting because our family feels a deep connection to the military,” says Sandra Dowell, whose husband Bill works with ProEquities. “It was wonderful to help Ronald McDonald House while getting a unique piece of art that represents patriotism.”
The other two paintings were given away through a remarkable set of circumstances. Randomly selecting an audience member, Wahl brought Darrin Preheim on stage, a Wichita-based ProEquities financial advisor, and asked him if he was willing to take a risk. Preheim was asked to choose between two envelopes — one that could win him a Wahl painting (valued at thousands of dollars); the other could win him $100 instead. Darrin won the cash, and another audience member won the painting. Preheim took the $100, bought five raffle tickets for the final Wahl painting and … won.
When called back to the stage, Preheim explained why it was so special to him to win the painting of Albert Einstein. He shared that in 2002, when his twin daughters were born prematurely, he and his wife Maureen spent seven weeks at the Ronald McDonald House near Wesley Medical Center.
“As a parent with a child in the hospital, you are in a very vulnerable place. The Ronald McDonald House provides such stability,” Preheim says. “The people at the Ronald McDonald House were amazing to us, letting us stay close to our daughters when they needed us the most.”
Today Preheim’s twins, Claire and Tessa, are thriving eighth graders, and Preheim remains thankful for Ronald McDonald House Charities. “It was really special to win this art work that was part of a fundraiser to benefit this place that helped my family enormously.”
Ronald McDonald Houses allow families of hospitalized children to stay at little to no cost. This allows parents to be close to their children and their doctors, reducing the stress of commuting from home (which can be hours away) to the hospital. Community volunteers provide home-cooked meals and support.
Volunteers from Protective serve a meal to the families each month. “Many people don’t realize what all the Ronald McDonald House offers,” says ProEquities employee Shelley Rigby. “Every time I leave, I am touched by the parents I meet and how thankful they are to have a place to stay in a time of need.”
Shelley’s been impacted so profoundly that she has now involved her two-year-old son Michael, asking guests at his birthday parties to bring items for donation to the house in lieu of presents.
“It’s been such a gift to volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House,” Shelley says. “I want my son to grow up learning how to give back too.”