Posted on April 18, 2023
Penn-Mar’s 31st Annual Gala event in March was the final homestretch for the organization’s effort to raise the remaining $500,000* it needed to meet its audacious $7.5 million “Building Bold Futures” campaign goal.
As CEO Greg Miller was urging the 600 Gala guests to “dig deep” to ensure the continuing growth of services for the people with disabilities Penn-Mar supports, a waiter in the room was listening intently to the urgency of the appeal.
Pete Heubeck and his wife Kelly were serving at the Gala by chance. Their “near and dear friend” Jack Elsby, the staffing manager for the event, asked them to come on board when he realized at the last minute he was shorthanded.
Pete’s first job in the restaurant business was at The Brass Elephant, Jack’s restaurant in Baltimore. He worked in the field for some 20 years as a waiter, bartender, manager and maître’d, but switched careers after marrying and starting a family.
Pete transitioned into sales management for a fencing company before starting his own general contracting business in 2009, Hunt Valley-based Exteriors Unlimited.
As he watched the Campaign donors’ names flash up on the screen, Pete approached his wife Kelly and said, “Honey, what do you think? It’s a great cause and we can afford to give.”
Kelly readily agreed so Pete made his way to the front of the room where he told a woman on the Penn-Mar staff that he would like to make a donation. She quickly responded, “I can make that happen!” When he handed his credit card over for a $1,000 donation, she was visibly and happily surprised.
The Heubecks are no strangers to life’s challenges. In January 2021, Pete was diagnosed with 4th stage esophageal cancer. Treatment options for this advanced staged cancer are limited with only 20 percent of patients surviving the cancer for one year or more after diagnoses.
Pete wasn’t having any of it. “I have a wife and three daughters,” he told his doctor. “I have bills to pay and grandchildren I’ve yet to meet. Dying is not an option.” He refused to take the news sitting down and pledged to forge ahead.
“My family and I threw everything-in-the-book at it once I received the diagnosis,” he said. “Kelly and my sister-in-law did the research and we adapted all sorts of eastern and western medical practices. Dietary and lifestyle changes made all the difference.”
And so they did.
Pete recently tested NED — No Evidence of Disease — and considers himself young at heart as he looks forward to celebrating his 60th birthday in November with wife Kelly and daughters Vivi, Sara and Mary Claire.
The Heubeck family’s journey over the past few years aligns perfectly with Penn-Mar’s mission to support people to live courageously in pursuit of their best life. All of us here are inspired by their courage and grateful for Pete and Kelly’s heartfelt, spontaneous generosity.
*The Gala event went on to top a record-breaking $1 million in a single night, with $530,000 in donations earmarked for the “Building Bold Futures” Campaign.