On the evening of October 25, the Grand Ballroom at The Plaza in New York City was buzzing with excitement. The Skin Cancer Foundation was holding its 22nd annual Gala, the organization’s signature fundraiser. The event raised over $600,000 to support SCF initiatives,and also provided a chance to honor leaders in the skin cancer space who share in the Foundation’s mission to raise awareness of the world’s most common cancer.
The night kicked off with a cocktail reception, where more than 400 guests had a chance to catch up, network and celebrate the Foundation’s work. Guests included Skin Cancer Foundation donors, industry and physician allies, celebrity supporters and members of the media. Waiters made the rounds while dozens of photographers captured the night’s best moments — including when stars Sofía Vergara, David Harbour (Stranger Things), Condola Rashad (Billions) and Kayli Carter walked the red carpet.
Eventually, guests made their way to the ballroom for the seated dinner and formal program. Skin Cancer Foundation President Deborah S. Sarnoff, MD welcomed guests and spoke about the importance of the Foundation’s mission and thanked the supporters who make it possible to bring lifesaving programs to fruition.
“Tonight, we celebrate the champions who face skin cancer head on, their loved ones who fight right alongside them, and the people who work tirelessly to provide the resources needed to prevent, detect and treat this disease before it can devastate a life,” Dr. Sarnoff said. “Tonight we ask you to join us and become a Champion for Change. The Skin Cancer Foundation will lead the way, but we can only do so with you behind us.”
Singer and songwriter Neil Sedaka entertained the crowd with a performance of his greatest hits, after which the evening’s master of ceremonies, NBC News Correspondent Jeff Rossen took the stage. Rossen shared a personal connection with the evening’s cause, telling the story of his own experience with melanoma. He kept guests engaged throughout the night as he introduced the evening’s speakers, including two of the Gala’s chairs, Adam Schweitzer and Sue Manber.
The Foundation presented two awards at the event. The Champion for Change Award was presented to Robert J. Friedman, MD, clinical professor at NYU School of Medicine, Department of Dermatology, for his lifetime commitment to skin cancer education. Dr. Friedman was part of a group of dermatologists at NYU that developed “the ABCDs of melanoma,” which became a widely recognized tool used for early detection of the disease. The 2018 Media Award was presented to O, The Oprah Magazine for the article “Save Our Skin.” The award was accepted on the magazine’s behalf by Beauty Director Brian Underwood.
The final part of the evening included a moving speech by Chelsea Dawson, a melanoma survivor who shared that, thankfully, she is now cancer-free. She stressed the importance of a support network, and said The Skin Cancer Foundation’s services are invaluable to those who need skin cancer prevention and detection information. Auctioneer Pat Tully then led the crowd in an energetic pledge drive to keep the Foundation’s mobile skin cancer screening program, Destination: Healthy Skin program on the road.
“There are so many people out there who need this information, who need services like Destination: Healthy Skin, and there will be for generations,” said Dawson. “Lives are saved with skin cancer screenings. Lives are saved with prevention education. And from all of these efforts, happily-ever-afters like mine are possible.”
The Gala was chaired by Susan Manber (chief planning officer, Digitas Health) and Stephanie and Adam Schweitzer (partner/board member, ICM Partners). The honorary chair was Marcia Robbins-Wilf, EdD. The Gala Committee included Chris G. Adigun, MD, Jeffrey Brackeen, MD, Jeremy Brauer, MD, Kim Campbell, Doris Day, MD, Megan Driscoll, Jennifer and Joseph A. Dussich, Dendy Engelman, MD, April Franzino, Scott M. Friedman, Seth I. Friedman, Elizabeth K. Hale, MD, Adele Haimovic, MD, Erum Ilyas, MD, Julie K. Karen, MD, Jesse Lewin, MD, Celine Mactaggart, Elizabeth Naughton, Ariel Ostad, MD, Isabelle Raymond, PhD, Anne Reilly, Mitzi Runyan, Mary L. Stevenson, MD, Don Uselmann and Kit Wallace.