Setting the Future Straighter at the “Life Without Lupus Gala 2012: Turning Lupus Research Upside Down”

New Yorkers are a resilient bunch. Despite Sandy, some of the most stylish in town came out for the SLE Lupus Foundation “Life Without Lupus Gala 2012: Turning Lupus Research Upside Down”, which raised 2.5 million.

The world’s largest gathering of the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation was held at The American Museum of Natural History on Monday evening, November 19th. Hosted by Willie Geist, new co-host of NBC’s Today Show and MSNBC’s Morning Joe, the night raised $2.5 million to turn the tables on lupus with novel innovative research that is producing the pivotal discoveries to improve treatments and uncovering the root causes of lupus that can lead to a cure.

More than 700 members of New York City’s philanthropic, government, business and health care communities joined forces. Five-time Tony award winner Audra McDonald captivated the audience’s hearts with her expression of support. “I can only begin to understand the devastation that lupus can bring having watched a colleague cope with her mom’s death from this disease. I perform for you tonight to help raise the funds needed to drive the most creative research that can turn the situation around for people with lupus as well as millions of others suffering from similar autoimmune diseases.” Audra was just recognized as 2012 Best Actress in a Musical for her starring role in Porgy and Bess.

Gala honorees Fern and Lenard Tessler were celebrated for their steadfast dedication to the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation and its Lupus Research Institute (LRI) in the relentless pursuit of improving lupus care through novel research. Lupus is a devastating autoimmune disease that affects 1.5 million Americans, 90 percent of whom are women — with a two to three times greater risk among women of color.

In accepting the award, Fern commented on the effect her niece’s diagnosis has on her family’s lives. She noted she wants more for her niece– and is determined to give her the future she deserves and the best way we can is to support this organization that finds and funds the most groundbreaking research.

S.L.E. Lupus Foundation President Richard DeScherer announced that in addition to devoting funds raised to lupus research, the Foundation is donating $50,000 to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. “We have been committed to New York for 42 years – while we expand across the country and worldwide, New York will always be our home. And as New Yorkers, we want to help our neighbors get back on their feet.”

Honorary Dinner Chair Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg addressed the crowd, noting, “New York has the most lupus laboratories, private sector lupus research produced, opportunities for lupus diagnosis, treatment and care and the most established and active outreach to combat racial disparities in lupus. The work of these groups over the past several decades has greatly contributed to helping our city assume that leadership role in the U.S. and worldwide.”

Gala 2012 Dinner Chairs were Jennie & Richard DeScherer; Susan Golick & Alan Wasserman; Ronnie & Michael Kassan; Bonnie Englebardt Lautenberg & Senator Frank R. Lautenberg; Andrea & Jeff Lomasky; Lisa & Mark Neporent; Linda & Seth Plattus; Beth & Alan Waldenberg and Carol & Michael Weisman.

New York luminaries supporting the event included Audra’s husband and Broadway star Will Swenson; Governor Mario Cuomo & Mrs. Matilda Cuomo; opera legend Jessye Norman; philanthropists Edward & Arlyn Gardner and socialite Karen Koeningsberg. A live auction conducted by world-renowned Christie’s brought in many more members to the growing family of active combatants against lupus.

About S.L.E. Lupus Foundation: The S.L.E. Lupus Foundation is the country’s preeminent organization delivering direct patient services, public education and novel research at a national level. Founded more than 40 years ago in New York City by lupus patients and their families as the first nonprofit to serve the lupus community, it remains the cornerstone of comprehensive care in all five boroughs in the continuous battle for a Life Without Lupus.

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