MDA's Belle of the Ball

Masters inspires others to join in the cause, and the fun

by Alyssa Quintero on March 1, 2007 - 10:02am

QUEST Vol. 14, No. 2

Albert Einstein once said, “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.” That describes MDA Board of Directors member Timmi Masters to a T.

Masters truly lives for MDA and the families it serves. With tenacity, endurance and selflessness, it’s been her life’s work to further MDA’s quest for treatments and cures.

In nearly 50 years of service to “Jerry’s kids,” the Beverly Hills, Calif., community leader has devoted her time and event-planning prowess to helping raise awareness and funds for the Association.

Working with MDA is what she knows, what she loves and what drives her every day.

“MDA has always touched my heart,” Masters said. “You just feel like you’re helping so many people, and you really get so connected with the people. It just feels like one big family, with everybody working hard.”

MDA's crown jewel

Born in Arkansas, Masters became involved with MDA in 1960 as a member of the Crown Jewel Guild, based in Los Angeles. She and her husband, John, now retired from the commercial real estate and health insurance businesses, were married the same year.

Timmi Masters
MDA Board member Timmi Masters has for nearly five decades lent her fund-raising talents to MDA’s quest for better treatments and cures. She’s in her 21st year as committee chairperson for A Night Under the Stars, an MDA benefit gala in Los Angeles.

Masters had worked with other charity organizations, but she jumped at the chance to join the guild because it worked solely to benefit families served by MDA.

“I thought it was a wonderful cause,” Masters said. “We chose a different family each month, and we’d collect canned goods for the family and help them with anything that they needed.”

Masters also helped plan the Crown Jewel Ball, held at The Beverly Hills Hotel each year to benefit MDA.

“It’s been quite a long time,” she said. “I’ve done work for a lot of different charities but never one like MDA.
I’ve never felt closer to any organization or its people than I do to MDA.”

After years of involvement with the MDA chapter in Los Angeles, Masters became a member of the chapter’s Executive Committee in 1969. Seven years later, she was elected the first female president and proudly served for three years.

Masters’ tireless efforts in behalf of MDA in Los Angeles didn’t go unnoticed at the national level. In 1979, she was elected to the MDA Board of Directors, and 12 years later, Masters was named secretary of the Board — a post she’s held for 16 years.

In addition to her Board duties, she’s visited MDA summer camps, attended local and national MDA events, and appeared on the local broadcast of the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon. She’s also attended every national Telethon.

MDA Chairman of the Board Lois West, who is Masters’ close friend, said, “She’s a marvelous person, and she’s been a great asset to MDA. She works extremely hard on the local level and does so much fund raising. She’s really made a difference.”

Under the stars

When Masters was president of the L.A. chapter, she focused much of her effort on special events to benefit MDA. In 1986, Joan Rovegno, a former MDA regional director, invited Masters to organize a benefit gala called A Night Under the Stars.

Masters couldn’t wait to get started, bringing high expectations and several new volunteers into the MDA fold. And 21 years later, the gala’s still going strong.

From its sparse beginnings on a Universal Studios backlot, it’s evolved into a major annual MDA event with Masters at the helm. She works year-round to plan and coordinate every detail of the black-tie gala held each April.

The gala committee gathers items for auctions and determines awards, which honor people affected by neuromuscular diseases and special friends of MDA.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun, too,” Masters said.

“We’re very proud because a lot of people around the country have started doing these same kinds of events to help raise funds for MDA. That’s great for everyone involved.”

The gala features silent and live auctions to raise funds for MDA programs, including summer camp sponsorships for youngsters in the Los Angeles area.

“That’s such a wonderful part of the gala,” Masters explained. “Every year we try to do more because it gives the children and their parents a well-deserved vacation. I truly love that part.”

The proceeds also help provide wheelchairs, braces and other equipment to the more than 6,000 families MDA serves in the Los Angeles area.

In 2006, the gala, whose theme was the Emerald Ball, drew some 700 guests and raised $565,000 for MDA’s programs. The gala committee recognized Masters and her husband for their many years of service to MDA, presenting them with the Golden Wings Award.

Now in her 21st year as chairperson, Masters and her committee are working to ensure that the 2007 gala reigns as the best in the event’s history. Themed Our 21st Birthday, the gala will be held at The Beverly Hilton on April 21.

“We try to make each one different and more elegant and bring in more money for MDA,” Masters said. “The planning never ends, and the challenge every year is to do better than the previous one.”

Jaime Padula, MDA’s Santa Monica, Calif., district director, explained, “Timmi is so on top of her game, and she teaches us so much. Her love for MDA filters down to everyone working on the gala.

“It’s like her child, and we know she wants it to be perfect, which makes us want to do it so well.”

For Masters, it’s simply a labor of love.

“I never had children, so I’ve had a lot more time to devote to MDA. I truly love MDA with my whole heart.”

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