The Crowd: Gala raises more than a half-million in fight against cystic fibrosis

The 29th annual gala produced by the Cystic Fibrosis Guild welcomed nearly 500 guests to the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel and Spa for a summer soirée. It netted an impressive $535,000 benefiting Cystic Fibrosis research and care.

Gala chairs Dan and Gayle Demsher welcomed the overflow crowd, with Cystic Fibrosis Guild President Sue Hook. She presented the guild's highest honor, the Breath of Life Award, to Susana Huston, Beth and Bob Huston and Helen and Bob Zieman.

The awardees were lauded for their unwavering support of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and its lifesaving efforts. The nonprofit helps those afflicted with the fatal hereditary disease that robs them of their lung and digestive function.

Guild president Hook and her husband, Dave, are among a select group of local citizens who have dedicated their time and their money to seeking a cure and providing care extending the life of those fighting the disease.

Others with similar passion include Helene Galen, Tom and Penny Ling, Todd and Sue Klug, Barry and Myra Ross, Ron and Dianne Higgins, Dan and Danni Good, Doug and Kristi DeCinces, Mickey and Gail Isen, Paul and Debbie Motenko, and Myron and Carol Kanofsky. Many of those involved know first-hand the horror of losing a child to Cystic Fibrosis. They would all agree that it becomes a life course to try to save another child from a similar fate.

The evening was punctuated by the heartfelt address by 25-year-old Stacy Motenko. The crowd was silent as Stacy spoke of living with the disease. Her optimism was infectious, and her positive spirit provided hope for others facing the challenges that Stacy overcomes on a daily basis.

Medical research has advanced considerably over the last two decades, which in turn has prolonged the life span for many victims of the disease. It was not long ago that children afflicted with Cystic Fibrosis did not make it into their twenties. With critical funding of experimental drugs and other therapies, it is the passion and the purpose of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to find a way to extend the life span of all those who suffer until a cure can be realized.

Part of the excitement of the evening was "The Bid for a Cure." Master of ceremonies of the gala and KKGO radio host Shawn Parr conducted the bidding, which was simply an opportunity for guests in the crowd to raise their hands and offer donations to fund scientific research. Nearly $125,000 was generously given.

Local sports celebs got in the act, including Doug DeCinces, who auctioned off the opportunity to have baseball batting practice with him and other former baseball stars at Angel Stadium. DeCinces has a special connection to the foundation inasmuch as his 2-year-old grandson Beckett suffers from Cystic Fibrosis.

Bobby Ryan, of the Anaheim Ducks, was on hand joining Tim Rogers, general manager of Ferrari/Maserati of Newport Beach. Ryan offered the highest bidder an invitation to dinner with him following a ride on the Zamboni at a Ducks game. Rogers offered a Ferrari for a weekend get-away along with a two-night stay at The Island Hotel, along with a dinner at Mastro's Ocean Club and another dinner at Javier's.

The item was so popular it sold three times over, at $4,200 each. If that was not enough, a number of other generous sponsors helped to raise the tally, including longtime dedicated airline provider American Airlines, which offered to Europe, New York and Chicago.

Spotted in the VIP crowd were Rene and Anna Vega, Dr. Bob and Judy Cristiano, George and Marta Shinn, Margaret Kirby, Ron and Pat Harris, Michele Sciarra, Steve and Cheryl Abbey, Mary Zollman, Paul and Rachelle Gale, Joe and Karen Perricone, David and Stephanie Close, and T.J. and Amy Williams.

The gala was sponsored in part by corporate donors Watson Land Company, BJ Restaurants, Lithocraft, Twin Med, Constellation Wine, Traditional Jewelers, the firm of Bonne, Bridges, Mueller, O'Keefe and Nichols and American Airlines. The evening was dedicated to the memory of Sarah Kanofsky.

THE CROWD runs Thursdays and Saturdays. B.W. Cook is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

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