Sylvester’s Gala Raises $1.5 million for Cancer Research

Under the roof of Miami’s newest world-class hotel, South Floridians gathered 870 strong to show their commitment to helping Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine remain at the forefront of cancer research. The Metropolitan Garden Gala, held Saturday at the showpiece JW Marriott Marquis Miami and Hotel Beaux Arts, raised more than $1.5 million for the important and groundbreaking work done at Sylvester, the preeminent cancer care and research center that is part of UHealth – University of Miami Health System.

The biennial gala, an evening of high style, fine food and entertainment, featured a luxury silent auction and the presentation of the Caroline Halpern Award for outstanding philanthropic leadership to Roberta and Harvey Chaplin. The event was also the official debut of the world’s first JW Marriott Marquis and Hotel Beaux Arts, the gala’s corporate host and sponsor.

While guests enjoyed the special evening, which included a tour de force performance from Tony Award winner Idina Menzel, they and the gala executive committee and Sylvester leaders found poignant moments to draw attention to Sylvester’s continuous quest for a cancer cure, and highlight the many successes that have saved countless lives along the way.

In the first of the evening’s short programs, VIP guests who were gathered in the hotel’s nineteenth-story sports and entertainment complex, heard from Sylvester interim director Joseph Rosenblatt, M.D., about SGN-35, a drug first developed at Sylvester to treat lymphomas that has saved the life of an Argentinean father of two. The drug is currently in clinical trials at Sylvester, M.D. Anderson and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

“This new drug was developed because of research at the University of Miami,” Rosenblatt said. “It has allowed us to make a big difference in the lives of cancer patients. This is just one example of the work we do with the support of all of you. You have helped us make Sylvester the region’s leading university-based cancer center.”

Guests at the early reception also were welcomed by Lily Serviansky, who, along with husband David served as gala chairs; Joan Scheiner, chair of Sylvester’s Board of Governors; and Jennifer Stearns Buttrick, corporate sponsorship chair, who thanked the long list of sponsors such as Wells Fargo, Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson, Southern Wine and Spirits, Suffolk, Saks Fifth Avenue Bal Harbour, and The Harcourt M. and Virginia W. Sylvester Foundation.

“We are so proud to have the JW Marriott Marquis Miami and Hotel Beaux Arts as our sponsoring partner,” Scheiner said. “And we are delighted to have you at this VIP reception this evening, for you are truly very important people. That’s because you believe that the most important people, the physicians, scientists, nurses, patients, their friends and families, need our support and you’ve stepped forward and made your commitment to them and to cancer research.”

After the reception, guests moved to a third-floor ballroom for dinner and the evening’s main event. Before program host Miami Dolphins CEO Mike Dee introduced Miller School Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., he asked all Sylvester faculty and staff to stand. They did so and the room erupted in applause.

“We are all here because we care so much about the work being done at Sylvester,” Dean Goldschmidt said. “Their diligence and your support will allow us one day to say ‘cancer is cured.’ This is a formidable team and I am proud to have such a team right here in Miami.”

In presenting the Halpern Award to the Chaplins, Scheiner remarked that the couple’s “bounty of warmth and spirit for our community, along with their incredible generosity have touched so many individuals and organizations. We at Sylvester are fortunate and honored that they have included us in their hearts.”

After dinner, Menzel, who has a recurring role on the hit show Glee, and Orchestra Miami performed a number of soulful tunes, including some from the actress/singer’s Broadway appearances in Rent and Wicked. Afterwards, delectable desserts were served and some guests danced to music by the band Libido.

And some moved on to the nineteenth floor where an after party, complete with Miami Heat dancers and additional auction items, was in full swing inside on the hotel’s full-size basketball court, and outside by the pool.

“This is an absolutely wonderful event at a wonderful hotel,” said Jayne S. Malfitano, chair of the Sylvester Board of Governors, member of the gala executive committee and daughter of Harcourt Sylvester, for whom the cancer center is named. “The funds raised help us continue our advancements in the fight against cancer. The drug Dr. Rosenblatt spoke of is just one example of how the support for Sylvester touches real lives. That’s why we’re here tonight.”

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