“Top Hat” gala raises $2.1 million for medical research

| Written by rbruni
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Premier entertainment, great food, and good friends hit high notes at the Sanford-Burnham “Top Hat” gala, held Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014 at the Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa. The evening raised a grand total of $2.1 million for  medical research.

The evening’s theme, taken from the classic 1935 Irving Berlin musical “Top Hat,” transported guests back in time to a glittering era of Hollywood glitz and glamour—and rallied our strongest supporters to give generously for medical research. Honorary co-chairs Lisa & Steven Cassidy and Karen & Stuart Tanz crafted an unforgettable evening that featured top-tier entertainment, delectable cuisine and cocktails, and remarkable company, while keeping the focus of the festivities firmly on the groundbreaking medical discoveries originating from Sanford-Burnham laboratories.

The evening began as more than 220 elegantly dressed guests walked the red carpet on their way to a glittering cocktail reception. Along the way, guests were greeted by top-hat performers, who handed out satin top hats, canes, and flower boutonnieres to the gents to help them get into the spirit of the evening. Following the cocktail reception, guests enjoyed live music and dancing before sitting down for the evening’s first course. Once salad plates were cleared, the evening’s program kicked off with a live tap-dancing performance from the film “Top Hat” and welcome remarks by KUSI personality Lauren Phinney.

Sanford-Burnham's recently appointed Chief Executive Officer, Perry Nisen, M.D., Ph.D., also addressed the attendees, thanking them for their unparalleled support and generosity and sharing some highlights of the Institute’s accomplishments in the last year. Nisen concluded by inviting Dr. Hudson Freeze, director of the Human Genetics Program, and Dr. Matt Might, a patient advocate and parent to a young child with a rare genetic mutation, to the stage to share their unique and moving story of collaboration.

“Their partnership,” Nisen explained by way of introduction, “embodies the spirit of our 10-year strategic vision and represents a new model of collaboration that brings the patient much closer to the discovery process—inspiring scientists and providing hope to families in need.”

Following Freeze and Might’s powerful presentation (find out more about their collaboration), the “Fund-a-Need” portion of the event began, where guests were asked to raise their bidder paddles to give specified amounts. Top-hat shaped paddles flew into the air enthusiastically as guests pledged to support our researchers as they search for innovative new treatments and medicines.

The exceptional generosity of the evening continued, with a surprise announcement from gala co-chairs Karen & Stuart Tanz, revealing their $1 million gift to Sanford-Burnham to establish an international collaboration with the University of Toronto’s Tanz Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases. The gift provides funding to launch an ongoing partnership with the Tanz Centre to develop new treatments and medicines for Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and ALS, as well as other neurodegenerative diseases.

Following the program, guests enjoyed a delectable duo of petite filet and sea bass, as well as individual chocolate top-hat desserts filled with fresh berries and custard. After dinner, guests were treated to live music and dancing from Big Time Operator before the night’s entertainment concluded.

This year’s gala was a resounding success. Thank you to our generous benefactors and supporters for continuing to show your dedication to our shared quest, From Research, the Power to Cure.

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