A glittering crowd filled the baronial halls of the landmark New York Athletic Club at the National Meningitis Association (NMA) annual Give Kids a Shot Gala, A Benefit to Save Lives on April 23 to salute those on the front line in the fight against meningitis, a vaccine preventable deadly disease that has taken the lives of thousands of our children and cost many to lose limbs.
Over cocktails in the majestic grand room, guests pored over the incredibly diverse offerings in the silent auction which ranged from fantastic trips to rare wines to one-of- a-kind experiences. On a jumbo screen, photographs of loved ones lost to the disease flickered quietly.
Lenore Cooney & Gary Springer co-chaired the Gala. Honorary Chairs were Ambassador John L. Loeb, Jr, & Sharon Handler Loeb with Para Olympic Gold Medalist Nick Springer. Matthew Klarberg and Errol Rappaport were auction co-chairs.
Following the cocktail reception, guests poured into the dining hall for a sumptuous dinner and welcomes by NMA president Lynn Bozof and the evening’s emcee longtime NMA supporter Emmy Award winning actor Richard Thomas who brought his unique charm, humor and compassion to the evening.
Thomas introduced two time Tony Award winner James Naughton who with several of the city’s best musicians performed a winning set of tunes from his cabaret act. Naughton scored with the romantic “Beware My Foolish Heart” and had the audience in stitches with his infectious “Mr. Bassman” medley in which he squeezed in some 11 vintage tunes from “Blue Moon” to “Pretty Little Angel Eyes” never missing a bomp-de-bomp or a rama-lama-ding-dong with his rich bass!
Following dinner and the performance were the NMA Awards to a select group who were in the forefront of educating the community and the government of the pressing need for vaccinating all children as early as possible.
Activists Jeri Acosta & Jeri Greenwell who received the Moms on Meningitis Award both moved the audience to tears as each recounted the loss of a beloved son that led them to become unrelenting activists in their home states and across the country.
Actress, model & philanthropist Sara Herbert-Galloway and her fiancé sports & entertainment business manager Barry Klarberg of Monarch Wealth & Business Management whose clients include Justin Timberlake, Russell Simmons & Charlie Sheen received the Nancy Ford Springer Inspiration Award for their long standing support of NMA. Gary Springer and his son Nick Springer on video presented the award to the couple. Galloway’s teen children Justin and Alana Galloway have been teen Ambassadors for NMA for the last two years.
Chad Hoover of Sanofi-Pasteur, the vaccines division of Sanofi- Aventis Group, the largest company in the world devoted entirely to human vaccines, accepted NMA’s Health Achievement Award on behalf of his company. Not present but helping to spread the word, Honorary Committee member Charlie Sheen in Los Angeles on set tweeted about the gala throughout the weekend to his 7+ million follower reminding them that April 24 was World Meningitis Awareness Day.
Among the guests were supermodels Carol Alt & Bonnie Pfeifer, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, James & Kedakai Lipton, actress Christine DeLisle, hot young designer Berry Brown, veteran actor Joe Sirola, Monique Van VoorDanielle Doty en, Daisi Sepulveda, Mrs. Ethnic World International 2012 (herself a meningitis survivor), Danielle Doty Miss Teen USA, award winning playwright, director & actress Kenyetta Lethridge and her producer Diana Zollicoffer, Mary Sliwa, David Hryck, Rod & Judy Gilbert, Lucia Hwong Gordon, Ida Liu, Dr Howard Sobel & Gayle Perry Sobel, Cassandra Seidenfeld, philanthropist Jean Shafiroff, NMA Board Members, Lynn Bozof, President, Lori Buher, NMA director & Leslie Maier, Secretary, NMA and several survivors of meningitis including Jamie Shanbaum who developed devastating bacterial meningitis. Shanbaum lost both legs and several fingers. Her case led to the passage of a law in Texas named for her requiring vaccination to protect students.
The star studded Honorary Committee included Carol Alt, Michael Badalucco, Lynn Grossman & Bob Balaban, Steve Buscemi, U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Judy & Rod Gilbert, Adam Graves, Amy Madigan & Ed Harris, Lainie Kazan, Felicity Huffman & William H. Macy, Mark Messier, Congressman Michael Michaud, Lauren & Dave Mirra, BMX Moto Cross Champion, James Naughton, Bart & Michelle Oates, Heather Randall, Susan Sarandon, Daisy Pollard Sepulveda, Mrs. World Ethnic International 2012, Joe Sirola, Charlie Sheen, U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe, Liv Ullman.
Medical Committee included Richard Besser, ABC News;Paul Offit M.D. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; Nancy Snyderman, M.D.NBC News;Dr. Roger W. Yurt Chief of Burn Surgery, NY Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell Medical Center.
During the 1990’s, there was a significant increase in the number of adolescents and young adults killed or disabled by meningococcal meningitis; young people who were seemingly healthy, vibrant and often athletic. Most of the families were unaware of a vaccine that could have saved their children’s lives or anguish. The National Meningitis Association (NMA), a non-profit organization, was formed in 2002 by parents whose children were killed or disabled by meningitis. Since then, NMA has created educational programs that reach millions of people each year with information about available immunizations and disease symptoms and thoughtful, comprehensive support programs for families devastated by the ravages of the disease. For more information visit www.nmaus.org
Photos by Tom Fitzgerald and Pamela Napoli for Society-In-Focus. Via Edward Callaghan and John Wegorzewski
Photos by Tom Fitzgerald and Pamela Napoli for Society-In-Focus (www.society-in-focus.com)