A few days after President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign held a now-infamous news conference outside Four Seasons Total Landscaping in Northeast Philadelphia, Larry Kaplan saw an opportunity to do some good in what has otherwise been a miserable year.
Kaplan, a West Chester-based volunteer for organizations dedicated to beating amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, had a knack for finding creative ways to raise awareness about the terminal neurodegenerative disease, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. In 2016, for example, he traveled to 50 states in 30 days to do the Ice Bucket Challenge, raising almost $100,000 for ALS awareness. He filled each bucket with something particular to each state — salmon heads in Alaska, steak and chili in Texas — and poured it on his head.
So when the Internet blew up last month with the peculiar post-election story involving the Four Seasons hotel, a Philly landscaping company with a weirdly similar name, and the Trump campaign’s baseless claims of fraud, Kaplan seized the moment.
What if the ALS groups he’d worked with held a fund-raiser at Philly’s newest landmark? “It just hit in my head,” Kaplan said in an interview Sunday. “‘Oh, my gosh, what if we could do surf and turf at Four Seasons?’”
Kaplan reached out to the staff at Four Seasons Total Landscaping, which was taking all the attention and jokes in stride. (Merchandise sales went through the roof, naturally.) And once things started to calm down for the business, he got sales director Sean Middleton on the phone.
“He said, ‘Just give me 30 seconds of your time. ALS. Gala. Surf and turf at the Four Seasons,’” Middleton recalled Sunday. “That was all it took. We were in.”
The result: Four Seasons Total Landscaping will host a “gala” on May 8 to raise money for groups committed to finding a cure for ALS or otherwise helping people afflicted with the disease. Tickets will start at $125, and all proceeds will go to the ALS Hope Foundation, Hope Loves Company, the Peter Frates Family Foundation, and Pat Quinn’s Find your Smile Foundation, Kaplan said.
“None of these groups have been able to do any fund-raising in 2020,” he said.
They’re still working out the logistics, but the menu is likely to feature crab cakes and cheesesteaks for the “surf and turf.”
“It’s all gonna be very Philly,” Middleton said.
Kaplan emphasized that all plans are subject to change and will depend on the state of the coronavirus pandemic in May. They’ll follow public health guidelines and limit how many people can be at the Four Seasons Total Landscaping property at one time, he said.
“This is for people who have a terminal illness,” he said. “I don’t take this lightly at all. Safety will be the key.”
Tickets haven’t gone on sale yet — they will be available online in a few days at SurfAndTurf.Fun — but a Christmas Eve Facebook post by Four Seasons Total Landscaping has already generated a lot of interest. “Right now we have people flying in from California, Wisconsin, Arizona, Florida, we have people coming from all over the place,” Kaplan said.
He recalled Trump’s remark during the campaign that “bad things happen in Philadelphia.”
“We want to show that good things happen in Philadelphia,” Kaplan said, adding that the event has nothing to do with politics. After an “absolutely horrible year,” he said, “this will give us something to look forward to.”