By Kristina Houck
Brad and Beth Thorp lost their 18-year-old son Mitchell to an undiagnosed illness nearly six years ago. For five years, the family searched for answers, and when the community learned of their story, it offered support.
Since then, the Thorps have given back to the community through the Mitchell Thorp Foundation, which supports families with children suffering from life-threatening illnesses, diseases and disorders.
To raise funds for families in need, the foundation is debuting its Under the Tuscan Sun Charity Fashion Show, “Pillars of Hope,” on Sept. 6 at Cielo Village in Rancho Santa Fe. During the inaugural event, the Mitchell Thorp Foundation will honor top doctors, educators, therapists and practitioners.
“They go over and above their call of duty to help families with these life-threatening conditions,” said Beth Thorp, co-founder and director of Mitchell Thorp Foundation.
This year’s honorees are Dr. Mark Drucker with the Center for Advanced Medicine, Dr. Seth Pransky with Rady Children’s Hospital, Ruth Westreich, president of The Westreich Foundation, and Kim Schulte, a certified nutritionist with Biodynamic Wellness.
Pransky, Thorp said, is treating a foundation-supported child who suffers from a rare condition.
“He’s now training others across the world on how to treat this condition,” she said. “These are the kind of doctors and people we want to honor with what we’re doing. These stories are encouraging.”
Mitchell was in seventh grade when he started experiencing severe headaches. By the end of his five-year battle, he could no longer walk or talk, and he had difficulty seeing. The pain in his head was so severe he suffered from seizures. Medicine did not help.
Mitchell’s medical bills multiplied as the Thorp family traveled across the country looking for answers. To help cover some of the costs, Carlsbad baseball leagues organized a walk-a-thon to raise money for Mitchell’s treatments.
Inspired by their son’s strength and the community’s support, the Thorp family founded the Mitchell Thorp Foundation in 2009, which has since supported about 100 families by paying for medical, living and transportation costs.
“Mitchell was a bright light. He had a very kind, gentle spirit,” said Thorp, whose family has lived in Carlsbad for 20 years. Mitchell grew up playing baseball in the community, following in the footsteps of his father, who played minorleague baseball for the Dodgers.
“He loved his family, friends and baseball,” she said. “He was the strongest, bravest young man.”
Thorp noted the foundation’s logo features pillars to recognize her son’s strength, which is how event organizers decided on the name “Pillars of Hope” for the event.
“This keeps Mitchell’s memory and spirit alive,” she said. “When Mitchell passed, it was very difficult. But we felt, ‘There’s nothing out there like this.’ We wanted to form a bridge and help families have a place to come to.
“His spirit radiated through him, through us, through the foundation — and it continues to do that with whoever we touch.”
The inaugural “Pillars of Hope” event will feature an awards presentation, Tuscan cuisine, wine and beer tasting, fashion show, a live and silent auction, health and beauty vendors, and live entertainment.
The event runs from 5:30-9:30 p.m. Sept. 6, at Cielo Village, 18029 Calle Ambiente in Rancho Santa Fe. Tickets cost $75 per person, $125 per couple, with VIP seating at $150 per person and $200 per couple. After Aug. 15, tickets will cost $100 per person, $150 per couple, with VIP seating at $200 per person and $250 per couple.
For details or to buy tickets, visit mitchellthorp.org.