SEARCH Foundation Chairwoman Kate Patay on Furthering the Mission to Help Event Professionals in Crisis

November 23, 2021

When Kate Patay took the helm at SEARCH Foundation, which provides aid for event, meeting and catering professionals in crisis, little did she know that the world was on the brink of one of the worst pandemic catastrophes in history.

It was November 2019, and Patay, newly elected as chairwoman of SEARCH, which stands for special event assistance, relief and crisis help, was asked to come aboard early, since the former chair had to step away.

“Right before the biggest crisis we’ve seen in our lifetime, I took the helm to chair a crisis relief foundation, so one of the first things we looked at was really honing in on what our mission is,” Patay said when we caught up with her at IMEX America 2021, where SEARCH was part of the IMEX-EIC People & Planet Village, championing social and environmental responsibility. “We were having a board meeting in Las Vegas on March 11, 2020, the day the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, discussing who we were helping up until then, and were we going to divert from that for COVID."

She added, "We made the decision to stay true to our mission—helping any event professional in crisis, including as a result of COVID or otherwise.”

That mission has evolved over the years since SEARCH was initially founded in 1997 as a 501c3 to help event industry employees in crisis because of AIDs, subsequently branching out to include those affected by other illnesses. When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, SEARCH began to include any type of catastrophic occurrence, such as hurricanes, wildfires, floods and major accidents.

Wealth of Industry Assistance

Since its founding, SEARCH has distributed more than $800,000 to event industry individuals in need.

“SEARCH has funded 100% of qualified cases to date, and our annual increase in requests for assistance year over year is 48 percent, which is a huge number to continue to meet with our fundraising efforts,” she said. “Last year, we funded 26 cases.”

The first four cases to come after SEARCH’s board meeting in March 2020 were as a result of a gas explosion, a wildfire, cancer and a car accident, and as the year rolled along, cases due to COVID started coming in as well, including a particularly heart-wrenching one, according to Patay.

“It was a pregnant woman who had COVID and was in the ICU,” she said. “She delivered her baby alone because no family members were allowed to come into the room, and she died that day. Because she was in the events industry, her husband was able to apply for assistance through SEARCH.”

It’s these types of profound give-back initiatives that originally drew Patay to SEARCH in 2009, when she attended one of its fundraisers as part of another event.

“What really got me involved was when someone stood up at the event and talked about having breast cancer, and my mother had just been diagnosed with breast cancer,” she said. “That was what spoke to me originally—hearing the stories and realizing what SEARCH did, the give back and what the impact was, I asked, “How can I help, how can I better support you?”

She added, “I spent a couple of years just attending, supporting, donating when I could, and then they had a call for board positions as a director, so I jumped in.”

2020 Impact and Beyond

Since taking the role as SEARCH chairwoman, Patay, her board and all those involved in the organization’s initiatives have helped fundraise $267,000 in 2020 alone and continue going strong in 2021 and beyond, including several new developments.

SEARCH Foundation 2022 Board
SEARCH Foundation 2022 Board*

SEARCH recently announced its 2022 board, consisting of new and returning members, and it will host its first standalone fundraising event at Lombardo’s in Boston on Jan. 25, 2022, with discounted hotel room rates available. SEARCH has traditionally held its fundraisers in conjunction with other events. To donate products, purchase tickets, reserve a VIP lounge or learn more about the Jan. 25 event, click here.

SEARCH is also putting out a call for venue and supplier sponsorship of Catersource+TSE, of which it has a continued partnership. The event is scheduled for May 4 in Anaheim. View the venue RFP here or click here to sponsor a product or service.

Additionally, the foundation recently welcomed three new supporters of it SEARCH 100 Flagship Donor Program, in which individuals donate a minimum of $100 per month directly to the crisis relief fund in perpetuity. The new supporters include Jamie Baxter, co-founder and CEO of Qwick; Matt Johnson, president of BizBash, David Merrell, CEO and creative director of AOO Events, and Blair Mitcham, owner of BAM Events

No donation is too big or small, Patay stressed, pointing to the option for anyone to set up monthly donations of $10, $20 or $50, as well as one-time donations.

The foundation also introduced a brand ambassador program led by the SEARCH Outreach Committee to help further its reach and fundraising initiatives. Ten ambassadors are part the inaugural group. To become an ambassador, click here here.  

Meanwhile, SEARCH has added new supporters for 2022 to its existing list, for which Patay and her team are eternally grateful.

“We have some really great supporters that make sure we never have to turn cases away,” Patay said, pointing to Caesars Entertainment, Atlantis in Paradise Island, Bahamas, CORT, AllSeated, SITE and 42Chat, among many others. TSNN is one of SEARCH's newest supporters for 2022.

Assisting 100% of those in need of SEARCH funds is one of the main reasons Patay finds her involvement with the foundation so rewarding.

“I think it's our duty of care in our industry to give back where we can,” she said. “My industry gave me everything I have. It's my turn to give back.”

For more information about SEARCH Foundation, click here.

*SEARCH Foundation Board photo: Top row, left to right: Mark Catougno, Thomas Whelan, JC York, India Rhodes, Larry Green, Evan Carbotti, Judy Brillhart, Bobby Dutton, Nick Borelli, David Lombardo. Bottom row: Thuy Diep, Michele Polci, Kate Patay, Joann Roth-Oseary, Stephanie Jayko

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