LOS ANGELES, (LA ELEMENTS) 4/26/2017- “Lupus is in many ways the most devastating and tragic manifestation of the phenomena of auto immunity where the immune system goes awry and attacks numerous organs from the skin and joints to the kidney and brain,” says Dr. Ajay Nirula, while accepting the Medical Visionary Award on behalf of the pharmaceutical company Eli Lily during the 17th Annual Lupus LA Orange Ball Gala.
The Orange Ball Gala is Lupus LA’s biggest fundraiser. The theme for this year’s festivities, held on Saturday, April 22,2017 in the Samuel Oschin Pavilion at the California Science Center, was Rocket To A Cure. Stars of television and motion picture as well as philanthropists and medical researchers, assembled under the Space Shuttle Explorer to enjoy dinner, cocktails and to raise much needed funds for Lupus LA and raise awareness of lupus itself. Lupus LA is a non profit organization dedicated to finding a cure for lupus as well as providing support for those diagnosed with the disease.
The following were among the VIP guests : Actress Sharon Stone, philanthropist Kelly Stone, actor Giles Marini, (Switched At Birth) Actress Melissa Joan Hart, (Melissa and Joey) Terri Seymour (Extra correspondent) and Kellie Martin, (The Guest Book).
The event was chaired by Carrie Brillstein, Lauren Shuler Donnor, Dorothy Ellis, Kathy Gallagher and Greg Scott.
Invited guests had the chance to bid on a number of gift packages during a live auction which raised money for Lupus LA, as well as listen first hand to a number of moving and inspiring speeches by the organization’s honorees.
Eli Lily was selected to receive the Medical Visionary Award for their efforts in treating and working to cure lupus. “Last year Lilly declared immunology a core area of focus and research,” stated Nirula who represented the company at this event. “And diseases such as lupus are really central to the company’s efforts moving forward. Through the efforts of my colleagues and our research partners, many of whom are here tonight, we hope to learn from previous work and hope to develop safe and effective medicine for lupus patients. We are particularly excited about our ongoing clinical trials and about other treatment options we hope to bring you. Once again, I thank you as I humbly accept this award on behalf of all Eli Lilly employees around the globe.”
Actor Giles Marini introduced philanthropist, Kelly Stone, cofounder of the children’s charity Planet Hope, who is herself fighting a battle with lupus. Stone was on hand to present the Daniel J. Wallace Founders Award to Ron and Marta Bloom of Reach Me TV.
“Like all of us, Ron and Marta are very troubled by the suffering that comes with lupus and the elusiveness of this debilitating disease,” noted Stone in her speech introducing the Blooms. “They asked me why there is not a cure and why more people don’t come forward to talk about lupus. I shared with them first, that 1.5 million Americans have lupus and stunningly, two-thirds of the population does not know what lupus is and has never heard of it. We need awareness. We need more nights like tonight. We need committed people to come together with public figures, people that have a voice and people that want to help so that together, we can find a cure.”
Ron and Marta Bloom donated a one million dollar public service campaign to Lupus LA. In her remarks Marta Bloom noted, “Our message is simple. If we work together, we can change the world.”
Actress Sharon Stone took on the duties of auctioneer at the Lupus LA Orange Ball Gala, and acknowledged the dedication and commitment of the attendees. “It takes this kind of push and it takes this kind of give and it takes this kind of compassion to make a change. We’re going to make that kind of change and we’re going to start tonight. So like I like to say, ‘If you talk you bid, if you breathe you bid, if you move you bid and if you don’t bid, I’m going to come down there and get it.”
Prizes auctioned off included:
A Five day four night stay at Four Seasons Resort Maui.
A Five day four night stay in a private townhome at the exclusive Maui Wallea Ekahi Village
A two-night stay at a Hyatt Hotels property on the Las Vegas Strip
Among ticket sales, sponsorships, private donations and the auction, all in all over $600,000 was raised for Lupus LA.
Actress Melissa Joan Hart introduced Adam Selkowitz, winner of the Loop Award, which is given to the individual who makes the world a better place for people with lupus. Selkowitz evoked laughter with his opening remarks, (“Thank you for not going to Coachella,”) and was heartfelt in his gratitude to the organizers of the evening’s event. He also eloquently revealed what the experience of living with lupus has been like for him, personally.
“I’ll say this, it’s always changing. Since the day I was diagnosed, I don’t think there’s a day that goes by that I feel the same way I felt the day before. It’s like a bunch of small fires happening in your body and you have to keep putting them out. One day, you can’t take a deep breath and the next day, your joints hurt. The next day your heart beats in some weird creepy way. And then you feel great for a day and then you don’t.”
Selkowitz went on to acknowledge the expansive level of support he has in his battle with lupus. “ You know I have an unbelievable team of doctors led by the lupus legend himself, the guy who founded all of this, Dr. Daniel Wallace. I really do have some of the best doctors in the world. Thank you Cedars Sinai Equally important are the nurses, the technicians, the assistants, the acupuncturists, the trainers, the energy healers, it takes an amazing team to stay on top of lupus and I am lucky to have that team. I am lucky to have that support system and that safety net. Most lupus patients don’t have that. Some don’t even have a rheumatologist and that’s where Lupus LA comes in.”
“You heard about the research, our support groups, our patient services, our patient conferences and our emergency grants. All are really important pieces of the puzzle but I’m most passionate about two things that we do and I think we do them better than just about anybody in the world.”
“ When I was sixteen years old the great Dr. Jerry Jacobs told me I had lupus. I took the pills, I did what I was told, but that was about it. I didn’t connect with other lupus patients. I didn’t do research. I didn’t go to a support group. And now, thanks to Lupus LA, if you’re a lupus patient at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and you get diagnosed with lupus, you are introduced to one of the most extensive networks of other lupus patients your age. It’s a multi-tiered support group so there’s a support group for the whole family. There’s one for patients, there’s one for parents and there’s even a group for siblings. Thanks to Lupus LA, these kids get to meet other kids facing the same challenges and it helps them get better faster. I love going to talk to these kids and proving to them that lupus doesn’t have to stop you from having a wonderful life. In fact, I brought a whole table of those kids here tonight to show them just how many people are here to guide them through their journey and let them know that they have an army ready to fight with them.”
Observing the gains Lupus LA has made by utilizing the social media impact of celebrity supporters, Selkowitz noted that in the past three years, Lupus LA has received over one billion media impressions. “And people wonder all the time if those efforts actually translate to dollars or if it matters and I can tell you unequivocally that it does,” says Selkowitz. “We get calls all the time from people who see or hear one of our ambassadors talking about lupus and they get involved. Or they go to the doctor and they say, ‘Could this be lupus?’ It really works and I thank all of the ambassadors for their hard work. And thanks to Sharon Stone and Marta and Ron Bloom, we’re going to increase that reach tenfold. Nobody beats lupus alone.”
“The men and women who got the chance to ride in that beautiful space shuttle above our heads will tell you that it’s all about the mission. They’re right; it’s all about the mission. And for Lupus LA, our mission is to educate people about lupus. To get them help and to ultimately beat this disease. But you, all of you here in this room you are our astronauts. This is our mission and over the last eighteen years, with this innovative and hard working group of supporters we have made incredible progress and I am confident that we will achieve our mission and beat lupus. I know this because I know we are in good hands. Our board of directors is made up of some of the finest and dedicated people you will ever meet and there is no way I stand here tonight without each and every one of them. It’s a pleasure to lead this organization through thick and thin and it’s my mission to keep fighting for all of you. Thank you all for your trust, your faith, your support and for honoring me here tonight.”
We caught up with Melissa Joan Hart on orange carpet for Lupus LA. We discovered her deep connection to the organization and had the chance to ask the mom of three whether or not she would like her sons to follow in her footsteps as a child actor.
You made an impression at such a young age with your work in Clarissa Explains It All and Sabrina The Teenage Witch. Would acting be something that you would encourage for your kids?
My oldest one has shown a lot of interest in it. I’m not really hot on him being an actor right now, but if he really wants to act, then that would be something. We did get him a few auditions and he was only interested in the one audition that I didn’t want him to go on. So, then he was like, ‘I don’t really want move to LA,’ because we live on the East coast. So I was like, ‘forget it.’
Why did you select Lupus LA as a charity to support?
“I’ve been an ambassador for Lupus LA for quite a while now. I’ve actually received the award that I’m going to present tonight to Adam Selkowitz who’s the chairman. A lot of my friends are here tonight who have lost sisters to this awful disease and it’s just under diagnosed. I feel that a lot of people just don’t know about it. So I’m trying to make people more aware of this disease.”
To learn more about Lupus LA, Planet Hope, and Reach Me TV please visit their websites.
All photography for the Lupus LA Orange Ball Gala courtesy of Tiffany Rose/Getty Images.