News & Politics

A Night Out: The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Leukemia Ball

Diana Ross and Delaney Hogan combine to raise $2.85 million

Photograph by Keith Lane.

>> See more photos from the 2011 Leukemia Ball

What: The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Leukemia Ball.

Washington Convention Center.

Saturday, March 12. The Chairman’s VIP Reception started at 6, and the main event kicked off around 7:45.

Ticket price: Individual tickets cost $1,000, and sponsorship tables went for $10,000.

Dress code: Black tie.

Who: More than 2,000 Washingtonians dressed to the nines came out Saturday night for the 24th annual Leukemia Ball. The event raised $2.85 million for the Leukemia & Lymphona Society, which funds research, patient services, advocacy, and public awareness and education for and about blood cancers.

The evening’s emcees were four local TV personalities: Anita Brikman of 9 News Now, Laura Evans of Fox 5 News, Alison Starling of Good Morning Washington and ABC 7 News, and Lindsay Czarniak of News4 Sports—who happened to be wearing the same strapless, lilac dress as Donna McKelvey, the event’s chair. The anchors recognized the Man and Woman of the Year, Sean Geiger of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and Lisa Pagano of Washington Nationals Baseball Club, who together raised more than $800,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Event co-chairs Steve Lilly, CFO of National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Coorperation; and Robin Lineberger, CEO of Deloitte Federal Government Services, took the stage throughout the night and thanked major sponsors such as American Airlines, Phrma, and Mercedes-Benz.

The scene: Guests started off the evening with a silent auction, which featured items ranging from an Urban Sport 50 CC Motor Scooter for the “speed lover” valued at $2,000 to a special dinner party with chef Tom Nicklow priced at $350. Popular items also included two tickets to the 2011 Grammys with airfare and hotel included, and two VIP tickets to a live taping of Dancing With the Stars.

As this year’s mission family, the O’Hagans of Mount Vernon told their emotional story of 16-year-old Delaney’s three-time battle against leukemia via video. Delaney, her mother and father Jamie and Joe, and her brother Grady, who donated his bone marrow to his younger sister, then took the stage and expressed their gratitude to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society for their support over the past ten years.

“The relief that I feel since Delaney’s been in remission is immense. But until there is a cure,” Jamie tearfully told the guests, “her fight is not over.”

John Heffron, the most recent winner of NBC’s Last Comic Standing, made an onstage appearance after dinner. During the VIP reception, Heffron told, “There’s something about an event full of tuxedos that makes me a little more nervous. Tuxes just don’t really scream laughter.” Fortunately, Heffron overcame his anxiety and turned the crowd’s tears into laughter with his 30-minute tirade about married family life.

Lindsay Czarniak, whose father was diagnosed with lymphoma 14 years ago, urged guests to donate to the society during the Bid for the Cure. Various blood-cancer survivors, such as 12-year old Mitch Smith, gave short testimonies throughout the night encouraging guests to make additional donations. By the end of the night, the ball raised an extra $142,357, well surpassing the goal of $125,000.

Diana Ross roused the crowd with a spirited rendition of “I’m Coming Out.” She kept guests on their feet for the rest of the “Supreme Evening,” dancing to memorable hit after hit such as “I Love You More Today Than Yesterday” and “Stop! In the Name of Love.”

Food and drink:
Dinner, catered by Centerplate, began with lobster, radicchio, frissee, and ruby-grapefruit and orange slices served with chervil-oil-and-citrus dressing; followed by pan-seared beef filet with adobo scallops, served with green-peppercorn sauce and truffled mashed potatoes, sweet red pepper, baby malibu carrots, garlic spinach, and yellow baby squash. To top off the meal, guests were treated to two desserts: a sour-cream cheesecake and a flourless chocolate cake garnished with fresh berry sauce and whipped cream.

Hot auction items:
For the 15th year, Mercedes-Benz teamed up to be the Raffle Presenting Sponsor for the ball. For $100, two lucky attendees went home with a 2011 E350 Cabriolet worth $57,725, and a 2011 C300 Sport Sedan worth $34,865.

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