By Contributor Donna Shor
Photo credit: Neshan H. Naltchayan
Dazzled guests at the Leukemia Society’s 25th Anniversary Ball entered through a glamorous corridor lined with silken black and white mirror-studded hangings. It was flanked by twelve-foot tall champagne glasses cleverly “built” of strings of lights to match the stemmed glasses of bubbly each arrival was offered from silver trays.
Upstairs, in the ballroom of the Walter Washington Convention Center, beams of pale blue and lavender bathed the tables in a misty light. Guests dined on giant shrimp mounted on disks of lobster mousse, with a sea and shore entrée. Dessert was caramel crunch-covered chocolate mousse.
Emcees of the program of entertainment, awards and honors paid this largely volunteer-powered effort were news personalities Cynne Simpson of ABC 7/WJLA TV, Lesli Foster of 9 News Now, NBC 4’s Eun Yang, Loo Katz of 97.1 Wash FM and WTTG Fox News Sue Palka.
Film and TV comedian Sinbad kept the crowd laughing with his stories, and the classic rock band Foreigner made the dancers happy. Above and beyond the merriment, however, the guests knew why they were there: to help fund a cure for blood cancer, to aid its victims in their brave and painful battles, and to support their families.
More than one million two hundred people in the United States are living with or in remission from a form of blood cancer such as leukemia, Hodgkins lymphoma, NHL or myeloma. There is hope,because each year the survival rate increases, yet it is sobering to know that someone is diagnosed with blood cancer every four minutes. It causes more deaths among children and young adults under twenty than any other cancer.
Many in the audience were blood cancer survivors. It was especially touching to hear the first person accounts of a half dozen persons on stage who are now battling the disease--aged from six years to sixty—as they told of their struggles and their hopes.
There are fifty-nine Leukemia & Lymphoma Society chapters in the U.S. and The National Capital Area Chapter is one of the most active. This year’s two top local volunteer fundraisers, the LLS Man and Woman of the year, Eric Allen and Becca Williams were honored.
The ball drew a crowd of 2,000 and is Washington’s largest one-night non-political black tie gala. Co-chairs of the evening, which raised $3 million dollars, were Robin Lineberger of Deloitte Federal Government Services and James H. Davis of Human Genome Sciences, which places new therapies in the hands of those fighting serious diseases. Human Genome Sciences was recognized with the Titan of Business and Philanthropy Award.
The James L.Eichberg Lifetime Achievement Award, named for the longtime activist of worthy causes, was presented by Andrew Eichberg to Kevin Fay, of Alcalde and Fay, for his long advocacy of increased funding for leukemia research, as well as his fifteen-year LLS Ball Committee membership and his personal efforts which have helped raise more than $3 million dollars.
It took three co-chairs to head the Auction Committee, and no wonder, they and other volunteers amassed an amazing 792 valuable items, with American Airlines as major donors. The Co-chairs were Karen Altschuler, Michael Dearden and Kate Schofield. Guests could bid from the dinner table thanks to BidPals, the hand-held wireless devices that let them see photos of the items displayed in the foyer, follow the amounts bidden, and be signaled if they were outbid.
Generous local Mercedes dealers contributed big-time to the raffle. donating a 2012 ML350 SUV ($49,685) and a 2012 C250 Coupe ($38,115); Raffle Committee Co-chairs were Carol Kerins and Steve Peck.
The ball’s Public Relations Committee was chaired by Matt Forke of Vanguard Communications, plus a team of six who helped get the news out.
A few interesting facts about Sinbad: he was ranked by Comedy Central as one of the 100 top standup comedians of all time. He was not only a basketball standout for the University of Denver, he also amassed the creds to serve as master of technology during private engagements for clients such as Intel, Breakaway Technologies, Apple and Microsoft.