The IMF's Tenth Anniversary Gala - What A Blast!
The Unknown Patient, with his virtually Unknown Spouse, was privileged to attend the IMF’s 10th Anniversary Gala, Ribbon of Hope Making A World Of Difference, held at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City on October 27th. It was truly an overwhelming experience to celebrating the IMF’s decade of support of the myeloma community. The crowd provided a resounding bravo to an organization that has beaten the odds, having begun with little more than a typewriter, a lawn chair and high hopes. Fueled by the passion of its founders and the growing community of people it has helped, the IMF has had a remarkable impact on the quality of life for myeloma patients while working towards a cure. It is truly the “Little Engine That Could.”
After spending the afternoon at his day job, changing into his tuxedo and hustling his Unknown Spouse to the Waldorf, the Unknown Patient joined attendees at a small reception to thank some of the folks who made the evening possible. After welcoming remarks by IMF President Susie Novis and IMF Chairman of the Board Prof. Brian Durie, a representative from Mayor Guliani’s office welcomed the IMF to New York. Myeloma patient Marlene Zimmerman presented an original sculpture symbolizing the struggle for a cure to the evening’s guest of honor, Charles Osgood. The Unknown Patient must confess to being a bit star-struck meeting Robin Leach, of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” the evening’s emcee. Robin has a dear friend who is fighting myeloma and graciously donated his services in his honor. IMF board member Mark DiCicilia surprised Susie Novis and Prof. Durie, presenting them with a beautiful crystal eagle, poignantly missing one wing symbolizing the loss of Brian Novis, one of the founders of the
As he sipped his soft drink and struggled to keep up with his spouse as she conducted her inimitable social blitz through the reception, the Unknown Patient couldn’t help but reflect on ten wonderful years. The IMF is all about people helping people. Mingling with the crowd during the reception that opened the Gala, it was truly heartening to see so many familiar faces, gathered from near and far, all there to salute the IMF – an organization that has helped fund so much promising research and whose name has been synonymous with caring and patient empowerment.
There were many new friends in the room, brought to the IMF by patients, their families and business associates. He was also happy to see young investigators who had received IMF grants to fund their research as well as more seasoned myeloma experts and their characteristically Unseen spouses. The Unknown patient was particularly gratified to be fully dressed in his tuxedo, talking to these docs with a drink in his hand versus looking up from a table at the wrong end of a bone marrow biopsy needle.
Unfortunately, there was also a clear sense of who wasn’t in the room. So many people who helped make the IMF a reality and worked tirelessly to deliver on its promise are no longer with us. These were people like Brian Novis, who, together with Susie Novis and Brian Durie, founded the IMF. Others like Francesca Thompson, Sharon Rudolph, June Brazil, Bill Solomon, Joe Feurey and Aki Horinouchi were also sorely missed. Each helped the IMF in their own special way. As the Unknown Patient has often heard his good friend and IMF board member Michael Katz say, “We must reach out a helping hand to those that follow us to give them the support that we got when we needed it most.” These folks embodied that noble sentiment and the Unknown Patient knows that they were with us in spirit.
Sufficiently doused with soft drinks, stuffed with hors d’oeuvres and having exhausted his tongue jabbering with the ebullient throng, the Unknown Patient hunted down his spouse and made his way to his table. Tablemates included Michael Katz and his lovely wife Susan, along with Michael Scott and his better half Ilona. Mike Scott is an IMF board member who, among other things, helped the Unknown Patient develop the original IMF web site.
Michael Katz was soon plucked from our table to join Prof. Brian Durie and Susie Novis onstage for the formal program. Robin Leach introduced Brian and Susie, who spoke about the Foundation’s humble beginnings at a meeting between a patient (Brian Novis), his wife (Susie Novis) and their doctor (Brian Durie) in a coffee shop in London in November of 1989. Next, Susie and Brian recognized recipients of the Francesca Thompson Outstanding Service Award. Francesca was an active patient advocate for the IMF who epitomized the ideal of helping fellow patients and caregivers. Francesca Thompson Award Recipients in attendance at the gala included Charles Briscoe, Dean Gallea (on behalf of June Brazil), Michael Katz, Chuck and Sharon Newman, Irv Skolnick (on behalf of Sharon Rudolph), and Don Springer.
Next up was Michael Katz, who drew a huge round of applause when he introduced himself as a myeloma survivor diagnosed over ten years ago. The Unknown Patient prays for the day when every myeloma patient can easily reach the ten year mark and well beyond. Mike presented the IMF’s first ever Quality of Life Awards (see this page). He commended
Prof. Herbert Fleisch and John Seaman – the folks who helped make Aredia® (Pamidronate) available to the myeloma community. They have saved so many people from the unspeakable and unnecessary agony of broken bones. Then Mike explained how John Jackson, the CEO of Celgene Corporation, had brought new options to people who previously would have been sent home to die by bringing Thalomid® (Thalidomide) to market.
The first ever IMF Courage Award was presented to Beth Wolmer-Jacobson, a caregiver who had identified thalidomide as an option for her husband, a myeloma patient. She was able to convince his doctor, IMF Scientific Advisor Bart Barlogie, to seek approval to test the drug with two myeloma patients. Beth’s husband, unfortunately, did not respond and subsequently died. However, the second patient had a dramatic response and the rest is history.
The Unknown Patient was thrilled to see these people recognized because they have truly made a world of difference. He was more than thrilled to see Werner Osterwalder, a long time supporter of IMF Patient & Family Seminars worldwide, recognized for his dedication to patient empowerment through education. The Unknown Patient has been to many IMF Patient & Family Seminars sponsored by Novartis through Werner’s efforts. He knows how much they help patients and caregivers take control of their situation and end the horrible loneliness and fear that so often accompanies a diagnosis of myeloma.
The delicious Waldorf-catered dinner was accompanied by great music provided by myeloma survivor Lee Grayson and his band. Our Unknown attendee was ecstatic as Robin Leach helped run a live auction for all sorts of neat stuff. It began on a light note as Robin auctioned off bow ties being worn by Charles Osgood and Brian Durie. Bidding was brisk as Robin was doing an incredible job of marketing the goods while reminding the crowd how wonderful a cause they were helping. His exuberance and sincerity were incredible, born of a profound understanding of what myeloma can do and how important it is to do everything possible to help those who have it now and ultimately find a cure. We are grateful to him for donating his services and for the wonderful job that he did. It was so much fun to watch and so wonderful to see all that money being raised so quickly!
There’s so much more on the Unknown Patient’s mind about that night it’s hard to squeeze it into these pages. Let us just say that our Unknown Author has never felt so proud to be a part of the IMF and wants to thank the dinner chairs, Marcy Bernstein and Carol Klein, along with all of the wonderful people who worked behind the scenes to solicit contributions, organize the event and donate time, money and merchandise. It was a truly magnificent team effort and a huge outpouring of passion for “Making A World Of Difference.” Thank you! Thank you!
Siki and Eleanor Ma support the cause(top)
Barb and Don Springer(left)
Read more about the gala: