Port Washington resident Susan Miller, who has attended the Laurie Strauss Leukemia Gala Benefit Concert at Carnegie Hall every year for at least eight years, said this might have been the best yet. She described the Nov. 11 event as "outstanding" and "unbelievable." She also said that the orchestra seating section was filled with familiar faces from Port Washington. Miller also appreciates the fact that this fund raising event is so different from others she attends that usually involve a dinner and a journal.
Many of the members of the audience, from Port and other places, attend for several reasons: to see outstanding performances, to financially support the goals of the Laurie Strauss Leukemia Foundation, and to applaud the bone marrow donors and recipients and grant recipients. Laurie Strauss, the daughter of Evelyn and Herb Strauss, died of leukemia at age 26.
This year two recipients each greeted their donor on stage with a huge hug. Jeff Morris, a business executive, had previously met his donor, Matthew Patrick, a firefighter from California. A second pair met on the stage for the first time and emotionally embraced each other. Andy Talley, the Villanova Wildcats football coach, also came on the stage to receive a Volunteer of the Year award. He has also received other honors in recognition of his work with the National Bone Marrow Donor Program. Tally has received commitments from eight other football programs to hold a testing drive around their spring football games. Donors can now be typed just by taking a swab from the inside of their cheek, a painless, almost effortless, way to be included in the bone marrow banks. Tally intends to engage every college and university to enter the marrow donor program.
These bone marrow recipients are the beneficiaries of years of research. The major goal of the foundation is to fund research to find a cure for leukemia and other cancers. The Gala Benefit journal describes the Discovery Grants: "Our grants supply seed money to innovative research projects at many of the country's most respected medical institutions. Each project represents one important piece of the puzzle toward understanding leukemia and allied cancers. To date, our grants total more than $3.5 million. Subsequently, many grantees have generated over $140 million in additional funding, publishing significant papers, winning research award and contributing directly to new drugs and protocols now in use."
The Gala Benefit Concert with the "Bravo to Broadway" theme, was dedicated to the memory of Herb Strauss, the founder, who died last year. The New York Pops Orchestra accompanied the performers who sang and even danced a little to famous Broadway musical songs. Carol Wood opened the concert with her solo from Chicago and then had to rush to perform in that show. Midge Woosley and Tom Stewart hosted the concert, replacing Harvey Fierstein, who was in rehearsal. Other wonderful surprises were Chad Ryan singing a stunning rendition of Music of the Night from Phantom of the Opera and Chuck Cooper moving the audience to tears singing "Old Man River" from Showboat, Rufus Wainwright performed Judy Garland songs and Maureen McGovern emotionally interpreted Everyone is Beautiful at the Ballet from A Chorus Line and many others. Some of the most powerful performances were by the Young People's Chorus, the resident choir of the 92 Street Y. They sang a medley of songs from the Sound of Music that Port Washington resident Michael Pollack thought was the highlight of the evening. Charlotte Rosenblatt, and Barry Levitt, along with Evelyn Strauss were the producers.
Besides the annual concert, fund-raising efforts involve other foundations and individuals and even local school groups such as from Guggenheim Elementary School, Weber Middle School and Roslyn High School. Go to the website, www.LSLF.org, for more information on fund-raising efforts, the research grants and the 2009 performance which will be on Monday, Oct. 26 at 7 p.m. at Carnegie Hall.