Celebrities and surf stars will be in attendance for the Life Rolls On Night by the Ocean gala dinner and auction July 24. The Malibu Country Club will host the non-profit’s 7th Annual Golf Tournament the next day.
By Stephen Dorman/ Special to The Malibu Times
Jesse Billauer recently spent some time in Fiji. But he wasn’t there to relax and sip kava; he was there to do a little tow-in surfing at Cloudbreak, a fast, left-breaking, coral bottom reef break located on the tropical island paradise of Tavarua. Billauer, who suffered a spinal cord injury nine years ago at Westward Beach that rendered him paralyzed from the waist down, was getting whipped into waves via Jet Ski.
The surf session, filmed for his upcoming biography, “Jesse’s Story,” and also to be featured in the upcoming edition of Surfer magazine, marked the first time in history a disabled surfer had been towed into a wave, Billauer said in a recent interview.
“It was a good experience, definitely beautiful,” Billauer said. “We were a little nervous at the beginning, but it worked out.”
Now back in Southern California, Billauer, a former Malibu High School student, is preparing for something a little safer-one of the many fundraising events put on by his foundation, Life Rolls On, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing awareness about spinal cord injuries within youth culture. The organization started with a charity golf tournament in 1999 as a specialty event tied to the Associated Surfing Professional World Tour. In the six years since its inception, Life Rolls On has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Christopher Reeves Paralysis Foundation, as well as other charities, to help fund research and education programs to research and cure paralysis.
“It’s really nice to see the support and everybody coming together for a good cause,” Billauer said, adding that increased corporate sponsorships over the last few years from companies like Honda, which is this year’s featured sponsor, have really helped the foundation grow.
On July 24, Life Rolls On will host its second Annual Night by the Ocean gala dinner and auction at the Hotel Casa Del Mar in Santa Monica. The event will be a prelude to the organization’s seventh Annual Golf Tournament the following morning on July 25.
The Night by the Ocean gala will feature a silent and live auction where attendees can bid on a wide variety of vacation and spa packages, sports memorabilia and many other donated gift certificates and products. Last year, a chance to spend a day with Billauer observing firsthand how he mentally and physically approaches his treatment each day sold for $4,750 and was the auction’s highest earning item. Another package that included a day surfing in Malibu with actor Adam Sandler fetched a cool $3,250. In addition to the auction, there will be a dinner and musical performance featuring Minnie Driver and Kate Earl. The event is black tie optional and tickets are $150 each.
“We are still taking donations for the auction, but people will have to submit the items soon in order for their company or product to make it into our event program,” Traci Harden, program director for Life Rolls On, said.
The Malibu Country Club will again host the foundation’s golf tournament the day after the gala. Year after year the tournament, which features a putting contest, long drive demonstration and a four person, best ball contest format, continues to sell out, said Josh Billauer, Jesse’s older brother and the tournament organizer. Many of the four-person teams will also have a celebrity playing partner.
“There’s not that many high profile nonprofits that were started in Malibu that have grown to be a nationwide success,” Josh Billauer said. “So it’s a chance to support a local charity and local community effort.”
Harden said a limited number of entries are still being accepted for the golf tournament, while a decent number of tickets remain for the Night by the Ocean gala. More information or tickets to either event can be obtained by contacting Life Rolls On at 866. 939.4559, or by visiting the Web site www.liferollson.org