Do It for the Love

Musician, poet, singer-songwriter, and filmmaker Michael Franti and his ER nurse wife turned social entrepreneur, Sara, believe in the power of giving back on a grand scale. The pair will be recognized for their philanthropic dedication this month at one of the Bay Area’s most beloved fundraisers—Holiday Heroes at Oracle Park.

Portrait by Hillary Jeanne  |  Photographed on location at Après at Four Seasons Silicon Valley  |  Hair and Makeup by GlamSquad  |  Michael and Sara’s clothing courtesy of Bloomingdale’s, Stanford Shopping Center  |  Event photos by Drew Altizer

There are many people in the course of your life who will impress you with their accomplishments, but there are an even smaller number who will impress you with their spirit and energy. Michael and Sara Franti are part of that rarified group who manage to uplift all in their presence. Indeed, taking the positive look at life seems to be a mantra for this couple.

Guests enjoying Holiday Heroes at Oracle Park.

Michael was adopted at birth by a Finnish couple and raised in Oakland. “Everyone in my family played instruments and listened to everything from classical to pop,” he recalls. But it wasn’t until his college years at the University of San Francisco that Michael delved into the world of poetry. He was at USF on a basketball scholarship, but poetry opened new worlds for the young Franti and led him to buy his first bass guitar from a pawn shop and start writing music. Over his career, Michael has explored the genres of reggae, hip hop, jazz, punk, and rap and has always intertwined his message with a focus on peace and social justice.

Five years ago, Michael met Sara, an ER nurse, at a concert. “The connection was immediate,” she recalls. “I think we both have a need to help people in our own ways.” Today, the pair is inseparable. When they are not at home in San Francisco, Michael, Sara, and their 1-year-old son, Taj, travel on the road for concerts. Sara also runs the couple’s numerous charitable endeavors. She relates, “We’ve created a nonprofit that enables people with life-threatening illnesses, children with severe challenges, and wounded veterans to come see live concerts for free. It began when the wife of a disabled vet wrote to us explaining how much her husband would like to see Michael on stage. Seeing how dear that experience was for him, spurred us to create Do It For The Love (www.doitforthelove.org).”

To date, the Frantis and their friends in the music industry—like Kenny Chesney (Franti will be touring with Chesney starting in April 2020), Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, and many more—have made over 2,000 wishes come true.

The Frantis will be recognized for their hard work and generosity at this year’s Holiday Heroes fundraiser at Oracle Park on December 10. The event, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, is one of the marquis fundraisers of the Wender Weis Foundation for Children (WWFC).

John Hoch and WWFC Founder Amy Wender with Joe and Jennifer Montana.

Founder Amy Wender relates, “Our mission at WWFC is to create moments of wonder that spark a lifetime of possibility. The Holiday Heroes event turns Oracle Park, for one night in December, into a magical holiday wonderland. At the event we join with local teams, companies, organizations, and philanthropists to connect at-risk children with professional athletes.”

This year WWFC expects to host 1,500 guests with more than 500 underserved children and their families at Holiday Heroes. All guests at Holiday Heroes will have a chance to meet some of their sports favorites and participate in dozens of activities, including a skating rink, holiday arts and crafts, face painting, cookie decorating, a teen lounge for ages 11– 17, photo trading cards, and arcade games. In addition, they will have special access to the San Francisco Giants’ batting tunnels, dugout, and a chance to run the bases. An incredible silent auction filled with one-of-a-kind experiences, trips, sports memorabilia, and more will be offered throughout the night.

Over the years, more than 500 professional athletes have participated in Holiday Heroes. Athletes expected to attend this year include U.S. Women’s National Team member Abby Dahlkemper, San Francisco Giants’ Alex Dickerson, Oakland Raiders’ Dallin Leavitt, San Jose Earthquakes’ Chris Wondolowski, Olympic Gold Medalist Jennifer Azzi, Dennis Brown, Barry Sims, Ricky Watters, Ian Williams, San Francisco 49ers alums Joe Cannon and Khari Stephenson, San Jose Sharks alum Owen Nolan, and Noah Lowry.

The funds raised at Holiday Heroes enable WWFC to help children who are in need far beyond the evening of the event. To date WWFC has hosted over 5,000 at risk-children at Holiday Heroes and served over 50,000 underserved children and their families in the Bay Area.

Former 49ers Center Eric Heitmann with his wife, Emily, and daughters, Evie and Ellie.

Wender points out, “The sponsorships and ticket sales from Holiday Heroes have made it possible for us to develop several legacy projects, including naming a room at the bone marrow transplant unit for children at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital and to support numerous Bay Area nonprofits, including this year’s beneficiaries, the Warriors Community Foundation, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco, Do It For The Love Foundation, Team IMPACT!, and the San Francisco 49ers Foundation.” In fact, at this year’s Holiday Heroes, Wender plans to announce a multi-year legacy project with the 49ers Foundation.”

Michael emphasizes, “It’s an honor to be recognized by the Wender Weis Foundation and Holiday Heroes.” Sara adds, “What Amy’s been able to do over the past 25 years with WWFC in the Bay Area for children in need is so inspiring. What a joy it is for us to be a part of Holiday Heroes in this special anniversary year. We know how much it means to us and to be able to share the special event with our son will be such a gift!”


 For tickets and to find out more about Holiday Heroes and the Wender Weis Foundation for Children, visit www.wenderweis.org

 

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