Bereft father hosts event to help disadvantaged children
Lansing resident Jeff Croff leans off stage to hear a member of the audience shout to him at the beginning of the event “Tori Saves Christmas,” on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, at The Avenue Cafe, 2021 E. Michigan Ave. in Lansing. The event raised money for children in foster care and commemorated Croff’s daughter Tori, who drowned last year. Katie Stiefel/ State News
In June 2011, Jeff Croft lost his 8-year-old daughter, Tori, to the waters of a lake in Barry County, Mich. Tuesday night, he celebrated his daughter’s life by helping other children in need.
Croft’s Tori Saves Christmas event began at 9 p.m. A 24-hour showcase of comedy, art, music and film, the event, located at The Avenue Cafe, 2021 Michigan Ave., in Lansing, is dedicated not only to the memory of his daughter, but to Child and Family Charities, a local charity that provides services to disadvantaged children.
In a video on the event’s Facebook page, Croft said that instead of focusing on her loss, they needed to focus on her life. For a $10 donation, patrons were treated to standup acts, open mic, skits and short films created by various local groups.
Croft personally asked The Giraffe House, a YouTube-based TV show produced by the MSU Telecasters, to perform at the event.
“As soon as he brought up the idea, we were all for it,” communication junior and member of The Giraffe House Angela Wright said. “Here was an opportunity to give back with our talent. For us to be able to give to a night of entertainment, that’s a huge deal for us.”
From left, Residential College in the Arts and Humanities sophomore McKenna Keck, English junior Kevin Glide, and media and information senior Phillip McGuigan talk across the table to their fellow Giraffe House members on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, at The Avenue Cafe, 2021 E. Michigan Ave, in Lansing. Giraffe House, a part of MSU Telecasters, was at the event, "Tori Saves Christmas" to help raise money for children in foster care. Katie Stiefel/State News
Wright said they were the only MSU-based group invited to the event.
“I don’t think that we’ve participated (in) a comedy troupe,” Residential College in the Arts and Humanities sophomore and The Giraffe House member Toni Ruggiano said. “We’re being recognized as a comedy team instead of just putting out videos.”
Although Ruggiano said it’s not something that the group would normally do, she thinks it’s great to be able to contribute to such a serious event.
In a one-hour set, The Giraffe House gave an introduction and showed its half-hourlong Christmas special from the previous year, along with 10 other shorts that media and information junior and The Giraffe House member Erik Tobeler thought were the best.
“I love the concept of this,” he said. “I think it’s a great cause. Jeff, he likes to make people laugh. That’s his goal. Hopefully I can make people laugh and spread some laughter around.”
Like her father, Tori was also known for her sense of humor. The video on the event’s Facebook page showed Tori making a documentary about how her family lives, a video her family didn’t know existed until after her death.
“She was so interested in being hilarious,” Wright said. “It’s amazing to see that this little girl was so full of life. She was hilarious.”
Tobeler said the event hit home for him.
“I’m not a father, but I can sympathize with him,” he said. “I really wanted to be there to support him. She seemed like a beautiful person, and she was taken way too early.”
Ruggiano said Croft’s efforts to honor his daughter are commendable.
“It’s such a serious and upsetting event that happened to him. He’s using comedy to help people get through it, and it’s admirable that he’s helping people get through it.”