From Lady Gaga to Sir Paul McCartney, Michael and Sara Agah Franti use their A-list connections to fulfill the dreams of the sick and the disabled.
By Meaghan Clark Tiernan
After four years and more than 1,000 wishes granted, Michael and Sara Agah Franti’s nonprofit, Do It For The Love, shows no signs of slowing down.
The organization, founded in 2013 by the Bayview couple, provides healing experiences through music to wounded veterans, children with severe challenges and people of all ages suffering from life-threatening illnesses.
Though still in its infancy, Do It For The Love—which brings recipients to their favorite performers’ live concerts—has helped many families in a relatively short time. “Wishes are time-sensitive, and these people are dying,” says Sara, married to musician Michael since 2015.
Michael routinely played guinea pig in their charity’s earliest stages, hosting families at his shows with band Spearhead. Sara recalls a “rambunctious” 9-year-old girl with an inoperable brain tumor named Amalie, who—rather than help Michael finish his popular “Say Hey (I Love You)” single—grabbed his mic and asked to sing her own number. She belted out “Over the Rainbow” and “the whole theater fell silent.”
That moment, and so many others like it, would not have been possible without Steve Dezember, a fan suffering from ALS. When Dezember reached out about attending a concert with wife and caretaker Hope, Michael invited the pair to join him on stage. Dezember was in a wheelchair and could barely speak; Hope lifted him up and the two danced, a touching sight to behold.
Sometime later, Michael’s son Ade was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease, focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, and Sara’s mother with breast cancer. “We automatically became Do It For The Love families,” Sara says.
These experiences led Michael and Sara to form the nonprofit; Sara enrolled in a course at Oakland’s CompassPoint, which educates people on how to launch and lead charities. Eventually, she gave up her career as a registered emergency room nurse to dive headfirst into Do It For The Love while pursuing her Masters in Public Health.
“When you’re a nurse, you go in for 12 hours and then you go home,” Sara explains, but looking after her ill mother made her understand the “emotional journey that caregivers go through when they’re caring for their loved ones.” That’s why Do It For The Love’s beneficiaries also include a patient’s family members and caretakers.
With a low budget and a board that includes executives from AEG Worldwide and BottleRock Napa Valley, Do It For The Love has worked with artists from Lady Gaga to Billy Joel and Justin Bieber to Sir Paul McCartney. Patrick Monahan of Train loved the experience so much that the singer-songwriter asked Sara why he wasn’t being tapped to do more feel-good shows. She reassured Monahan, “There are a lot of artists out there!”
With exponential growth each year, two successful annual fundraisers including the Rockers Ball at the Fairmont Hotel on November 17, and new partnerships every day within the recording industry, it’s just the beginning for Do It For The Love—and for Sara, the group’s Chief Strategy Officer.
“Michael and I both want to throw the biggest, most accessible concert,” she declares, with palpable enthusiasm, adding: “Accessibility shouldn’t be an afterthought.” The duo’s ideal show would be easily enjoyed by concertgoers in wheelchairs, with options for the visually and hearing impaired.
A shared commitment to social justice fuels Michael and Sara’s passion and bonds them to Bayview-Hunters Point, where they’ve lived for five years.
“There are inequalities in our own neighborhood that need to be addressed and shouldn’t be a ‘bonus’ we do as a community,” emphasizes Sara, who hopes to dive deeper into policy work concentrating on human rights and equality.
Today, much of her attention is focused on keeping donors happy. The hope is that the charity will one day outgrow her and Michael. For now, Michael will continue to perform at each fundraiser and Sara will keep “bouncing around,” as she calls it—cooking up recipes with produce she finds at her neighborhood farmers’ market, studying public policy and spreading the word about Do It For The Love.
The Frantis, more often spotted on the road together than in their San Francisco home, will keep advancing their humanitarian mission together, driven by the mantra: “Be your best. Serve the greater good. Rock out wherever you are!”