Twenty Years of Dining for a Cause

Benefit Dinner Established by a Grateful Patient Becomes Community Tradition

Since 1997, Hamiltons’ at First & Main on the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, Virginia, has reserved one very meaningful dinner each year to help raise support and awareness for UVA Cancer Center.

Following her breast cancer diagnosis, successful treatments and then recovery at UVA, Hamiltons’ co-owner and Cancer Center Advisory Board Member Kate Hamilton and her husband Bill were looking for a way to give back, and realized that their new restaurant would be the perfect vehicle.

“We held a benefit day the first October after our restaurant opened and gave all of our proceeds to breast care research at UVA,” Kate says. “We happened to seat two members of the Cancer Center Board that day, who subsequently invited me to join the board. The following year, we changed the benefit day to a dinner event.”

Two decades later, the dinner has raised more than $250,000 and become a community tradition. Each year has featured a different beneficiary within UVA Cancer Center. Past causes include Patient Support Services, the Infusion Center, the Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center building, as well as research efforts in pancreatic, brain, breast, lung, and skin cancers.

“Some years it’s collaborative with UVA, a need will be identified and if it resonates that’ll be our cause,” Bill notes. “One of the things we’ve always really loved doing is supporting seed research. It feels like a great way to leverage that night and the funds raised.”

The dinner celebrated its 20-year anniversary in March with a multiple-course menu and wine pairings prepared by Hamiltons’ Chef de Cuisine Curtis Shaver. “We’re fortunate to have a great staff who want to share their time for this cause,” Kate says. “For the first several years, Bill was actually in the kitchen cooking, having planned the entire menu. There came a point when I really wanted him to come sit with me and be my date instead, and he has ever since.”

This year, the event raised almost $9,000 to benefit survivorship programs at UVA, which are managed by Christi Sheffield, supportive cares services manager, and Tracey Gosse, breast care program manager. Both gave brief remarks at the event, and UVA Cancer Center Director Tom Loughran, MD, also spoke about the state of the cancer center.

Both Kate and Bill agree that, for them, the most poignant and memorable moments are when friends, family, and community members share the personal experiences they’ve had at UVA, and why a cause is particularly meaningful and impactful for them.

“This dinner is a real highlight for us,” Bill says. “It’s really become part of our DNA at the restaurant. We look forward to what the future holds.”