Rancho Santa Fe resident behind fundraiser benefiting pair of military charities


By Samantha Tatro

One of the fall’s largest fundraisers was put together by one Rancho Santa Fe resident in less than three months.

Michelle Pius, chairwoman of the fundraiser “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Laughter,” was approached back in August about coming on board to chair the benefit in late October.

“We just talked about it, and I just thought it was really interesting and important that we support the military,” Pius said. “Especially veterans of PTSD. So I just thought it was an important cause.”

The “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Laughter” event will be held Oct. 24 at Liberty Station. It will benefit two local charities centered on helping combat veterans.

One charity, Lives of Promise, provides clean and safe housing as well as support services to veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder at no cost to them or their family. Shelter to Soldier, the other charity, rescues shelter dogs and trains them as psychiatric service companion dogs before donating them to soldiers who have post-traumatic stress disorder.

The event, the first of its kind, will be hosted by Channel 6 news anchor Marc Bailey and will feature Mark Christopher Lawrence, known for his work on the television show “Chuck,” as well as Dustin Nickerson and Anita Milner. The event will also feature a live auction.

Pius might have pulled this together in a remarkably short period of time, but she has a long and generous background of running benefits and charity events from the wings.

“I fell into nonprofit the old-fashioned way,” Pius said, explaining that a friend invited her to a luncheon for a Children’s Hospital benefit.

“So I thought it would be really nice to go ... someplace and put on an outfit, because I had small kids,” Pius said. At the time, she said, she knew nothing about philanthropy or fundraising. Now, however, she has an impressive résumé of experience behind her from working in the field.

Pius said she tends to gravitate toward causes that are health-related or involve children, but her most recent venture, this fundraiser, sort of fell into her lap.

“A couple of charities approached me about some projects they were doing for the military, providing services and housing for veterans with PTSD and service dogs for veterans with PTSD,” Pius said, adding that the event came about as more of a collaboration between like-minded people who came up with the idea. “So, poof, I’m putting on a major event for them at the end of October.”

Pius said when the charities presented the idea of a fundraiser to her, she was impressed with the work they were doing.

“I was really impressed, and they were just completely just under the radar,” she said. “They really are (amazing). All I’m doing is putting on the event to raise more money (for)them; they do all the hard work.”

The work she is doing as chairwoman is impressive as well. Her job oversees just about everything — working with sponsors, organizing entertainment, and many other tasks — including getting the word out.

“People should know about this and support this; and actually, the event attracted a lot of community attention just by putting it out there, because we only have one military,” Pius said.

Tickets are still available and can be purchased by contacting Michelle Pius at or Charisse Kaufman at Uniformed military personnel are invited as guests at no cost.