Vida OLE! Raises over $1.7 million for OLE Health Foundation: supporting accessible healthcare in the Napa Valley
By Sasha Paulsen
RUTHERFORD, Calif. — Vida OLE!, held May 18 to 21, raised more than $1.7 million for the OLE Health Foundation, which provides healthcare for Napa Valley patients, regardless of their ability to pay, insurance or immigration status.
Napa County’s only federally qualified health center, OLE Health serves 40,000 people a year and the number is rising, according to Sonia Tolbert, OLE Health’s chief development officer.
“We are seeing, on average, approximately 500 to 600 new patients each month,” Tolbert told the audience at a gala dinner and auction at Sullivan Rutherford Estate winery on May 20. “We serve one in four adults in the county and one in three children.”
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The gala was just one part of the weekend of activities, which began with lunch hosted by Gina Gallo and Jean-Charles Boisset at their Wappo Hill home to introduce the John Shafer Visionary Award. It is the first year for the award, established to honor the legacy of vintner John Shafer, who in the 1970s led the effort to provide healthcare for farmworkers, the backbone of the valley’s wine industry, as it revived after the destructive years of Prohibition.
OLE Health was founded in 1972 as a clinic staffed by volunteers and providers on loan from the local hospital. From its beginnings in the humble building that was the Rutherford Information Center it has grown into five health centers and a mobile health program in Napa County with a mission of “ensuring high-quality healthcare to everyone who lives and works in the communities it serves.”
The first recipient of the award was Rick Jones, owner of Jones Family Vineyards on Howell Mountain.
“This is one of the most meaningful things that has happened to me,” Jones told the gathering at the gala, citing Shafer as his inspiration to become involved in supporting OLE Health.
U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena) presented Jones with a copy of the statement he had read into the Congressional Record about Jones’ work, promising the audience, “I won’t read the whole thing” if they, in turn, would bid high and often in the auction coming up that evening. “Every time I turn around, you’re helping someone in the valley,” Thompson told Jones.
“When you open the door of your home, you open the door of your heart,” Darioush Khaledi, chairman of board of the OLE Health Foundation, said to vintner Juan Pablo “JP” Torres-Padilla, managing partner for the historic Sullivan Rutherford Estate, which his family bought in 2018 after 12 years of searching for a winery in California and Europe.
According to the winery’s website, the roots of the estate date back to the 1840s, when a land grant divided Napa Valley into two parcels — Rancho Caymus to the south and Rancho Carne Humana to the north. The Sullivan Rutherford property on the valley floor lies on the division in the geographic heart of the valley, Torres-Padilla has noted.
In 1918, Adolphe and Virgil Galleron purchased 402 acres in this area, where they raised sheep, grapes, prunes and walnuts and gave their name to the road where the winery is located today.
James O’Neil Sullivan, a graphic artist with an interest in wine, and his wife acquired 26 acres there in 1972 and founded their winery. On the advice of André Tchelistcheff, the “dean of California wine” who guided Napa Valley’s renaissance, they planted Merlot as well as Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Sullivans created an idyllic estate with lush gardens surrounding a small lake and a home designed by John Marsh Davis that evokes the style of Frank Lloyd Wright. Today, Jeff Cole is the estate winemaker, and Torres-Padilla served their Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon wines at the gala, in addition to the estate’s Loco Tequila.
“It is meaningful to me that five decades ago, when this estate founded, not far away in Rutherford OLE Health began,” Torres-Padilla told the guests at his winery. “In this world, the most precious resource is time, and you are giving us your time. When you are supporting your valley, it means you are becoming part of the community.”
And support the community the guests did at the lively auction led by the ever-ebullient and entertaining auctioneer Fritz Hatton.
The top auction lot of the evening at $100,000 was an experience from Loco Tequila that comprised a journey into the art and culinary offerings of Mexico City and the vision behind the El Arenal-based tequila estate that rescued and revived a 200-year-old legacy of fine tequila.
Bringing in $80,000 each were Rip Wheeler’s Bourbon and Bonfire, a three-day experience in Montana hosted by Cole Hauser, star of the hit television show “Yellowstone,” and Serving Up Aces with Darioush, which includes four tickets to a semifinal match at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, a Darioush wine dinner at Caviar Russe, tickets to a Tony Award-nominated Broadway show and accommodations at Exclusive Resorts’ Park Avenue Place.
The guests also raised their paddles to give $720,000 for Fund a Need, which will provide funding for upgrades to OLE Health’s busiest health center, the Napa Valley Vintners North Napa campus.
"OLE Health has an incredible legacy in Napa Valley and is committed to ensuring everyone living and working here has access to high-quality healthcare,” Khaledi said. “Without OLE Health these patients would simply have nowhere else to go. “For more than 50 years this community has significantly supported OLE Health, and this weekend was a further demonstration of that commitment to ensuring that OLE Health is here in Napa for the next 50 years.”
For more information, please visit www.olehealth.org/donate.
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