How Thomas Pierce Raised $2.7 Million For Children’s Cancer With The Second Annual Aspen Snow Ball

An inside look at the impressive

by Freya Drohan

Not many people can fill a room with the country’s most powerful philanthropists, musical legends, change-makers, and fashion authorities—but Thomas Pierce isn’t easily fazed. Despite his fundraising brainchild, the Aspen Snow Ball, being just in its sophomore year, the black tie extravaganza and the additional events in the lead-up/aftermath raked in a staggering $2.7 million for his foundation, Children’s Oncology Support Fund (COSF). The film producer oversaw the sold-out and ambitious multi-day program which included wellness experiences, a ski day luncheon at the famed Cloud Nine Alpine Bistro, an evening of welcome cocktails high up in the sky at the prestigious Aspen Mountain Club, an elegant benefactor’s dinner at The Snow Lodge in partnership with Balmain, a Through the Looking Glass-themed gala hosted by Giuliana Rancic honoring Rachel Zoe and Tom Lewis and featuring performances by Tove Lo, Mojave Grey, and Nile Rodgers & Chic. And a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party to round out the weekend! Impressed by his unique take on experience-led fundraising for such an important cause, we called him up post-event to get the low-down on how COSF is shooting for the stars when it comes to raising vital funds for pediatric cancer. 

How are you feeling after the success of the second annual Snow Ball Aspen?
I’m beyond grateful of the outcome of the auctions, we had curated lots for the most discerning and adventurous!

What were some personal highlights and ’pinch me’ moments from the night?
The real highlight of the night was when Gary Friedman, CEO of Restoration Hardware, was so inspired by the night’s speakers that he texted me during the auction and offered a seven-night fully inclusive yacht trip on the RH3 Yacht in the Mediterranean—it fetched $150,000 [on the spot] thanks to philanthropist and real estate moguls and [Snow Ball] Vice Chairs Scott and Carly Weber. The founder of Insider Expeditions, Carl Shepard, also came to the stage and also donated a week trip to Antarctica, fetching over $50,000 as a surprise auction lot. This really took our auction to another level with these surprise packages! A meet and greet with Pope Francis also went for $100,000, and a rare candy green Hermés Birkin kicked off with a bidding war with Vivie-ann (aka Blond:ish) and philanthropist Carly Weber, who ultimately won the Birkin for an astounding $55,000. Having Giuliana Rancic interview me and our guests with four-time grammy winner Nile Rodgers on one side and Rachel Zoe on the other was also a real pinch me moment.

How will the $2.7 million raised from this event be utilized?
We announced an all new endowed fund, ‘The COSF FUND for Advancement in Wellness; the first of its kind for Children’s Hospital Colorado to fund their Center for Blood and Cancer Disorders Patient Wellness Programs. This will allow for long-term planning, ensure patient wellness programs are accessible, and child life services are abundant for the foreseeable future.

On stage, you mentioned your friend who tragically passed away from cancer. Can you tell us how she was the original impetus for starting COSF and how she has continued to inspire you?
In my early 20s, I was devastated to see my dear friend Pamela Johnston lose her life so quickly to Lymphoma. I thought if anyone can beat it, Pam can. I got into fundraising to help fight cancer, as I understood that my background in partnerships  would be helpful. When COVID hit, I knew the need was stronger than ever as other foundations couldn’t host live events which made access to such grants even more challenging. I thought, ‘Now is the right time to step up and start a new grant foundation where we can partner with hospitals across our nation to help ensure children and families have access to programs they need to help heal and beat cancer.’

Kudos! The performances were incredible, and Nile Rogers is notably a cancer survivor. How did you get in touch with him and how receptive was he to performing for this cause?
Anyone who has seen Nile Rodgers [perform] live loves the musical journey he takes you on. I was fortunate to know his management personally and when I called, they jumped at the opportunity to support. Last year we had Diana Ross for our inaugural gala so I’m glad we were able to keep the Aspen Snow Ball Stage legacy going with another legend to headline our show! Tove Lo was also incredible—it was the perfect combination of pop and disco. Our audience were on their feet dancing for almost two hours!

Similarly, host Giuliana Rancid has raised global awareness about her battle with cancer. What was it like working with her on the event, and what do you admire about her?
I’m floored by Giuliana—she is so beautiful inside and out, and wonderfully supportive. She spent the weekend sharing fundraising advice with me, and offered to get more involved. She was so impressed with how fast we built a reputable foundation, and coming from her, that meant the world to me. She was touched by our program and dedicated community and I look forward to see where our relationship will continue to grow.

Giuliana Rancic

How many people were working behind the scenes with you to bring this four-day experience to life? Has planning already started for next year, too?
Yes, we have a date and theme for next year to give us a full year runway to plan to reach our full potential. We are a very lean team with almost no overhead. I have a Producer, Graphic Designer, and a Community Manager who help drive the build our events. It’s important to me to always stay as lean as possible while we continue to grow. I think not having high overhead sets us apart from any other foundation out there.

What made you decide on Aspen for the setting of this event?
Hosting 375 individuals in Aspen and receiving overwhelming support from the local community allows us to create a truly enchanting and remarkable trip experience unlike anything else. The temporary takeover of a small ski town is an extraordinary facet of this event offering guests a turn key curated trip showcasing the every best Aspen has to offer.

The event was sold out with a waitlist—how can people guarantee they secure a ticket or table for 2025?
We only have 375 seats, so planning ahead is key. We wish we could expand on the number of tables and tickets as we continue to grow, but unfortunately the St. Regis has the only ballroom that makes sense for our event. But we hope to create unique experiences, and we aim to continue to find unique ways to grow our fundraising efforts working with powerful brands and corporations.

Thomas Pierce and Giuliana Rancic

You also hosted the inaugural Zodiac Ball at the Houdini Mansion LA in September 2023. Tell us more about the highlights, and the future of that event?
The Zodiac Ball was a great way to introduce our network in Los Angeles to COSF’s mission. We plan to make Zodiac Ball a bi-annual event in different cities with the main focus on our annual Aspen Snow Ball Week.

What are your hopes and dreams for the future of the two events? And do you plan for there to be more additions to COSF’s event calendar?
My hopes and dreams that all children and families battling cancer have access to wellness programs across the nation. We do want to nurture our community and grow organically, and time will tell what that might look like. Right now we are just thrilled Aspen Snow Ball is going so well—especially with it being just our second year!

More from inside the event!

Attendees included HRH Princess Sophie-Alexandra of Bavaria (COSF Global Ambassador), Duchess
Elizabeth in Bavaria, Carly and Scott Weber, Shari Liu Fellows, Jayma Cardoso, Stephane and Sabrina de Baets,
Christina Getty, Alexis Knapp, Michael Orcutt, Julianne Kiel, Mason Gooding, Amenah Soares, Nolan Funk, Colin
Ford, Carly Chaikin, Keni Silva, Mohamed Hadid, Olivia Steele, Renee Blythewood, Tayshia Adams, Walter
Mendez, Janet Mandell, Loreal Sarkisian, Brooks Nader, Rodger Berman, and Harry Santa-Olalla, who led the live auction.

Sponsors involved included Balmain, Lugano Diamonds, Weber Boxer Group, Aspen Magazine, Taittinger Champagne, Ketel One, Nolet’s Gin, Desolas, Casa Del Sol, J Winery, and Louis M Martini. Proceeds from the evening benefited the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders (CCBD) at Children’s Hospital Colorado by establishing a new endowed fund COSF Advancement in Wellness Fund for the CCBD’s Wellness Program that will continue to be supported by Aspen Snow Ball fundraising efforts for the foreseeable future. Peek inside the evening, below!

Images: Getty

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