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National Gala in New York Raises $2.5M to End NF!

On Wednesday, November 20, 2019, the Children’s Tumor Foundation had the pleasure of hosting the National Gala in New York City. This annual event draws philanthropists, donors, fundraisers, researchers, clinicians, NF patients and their families for an evening of inspiration, innovation, and awareness. $2.5 million dollars was raised to support exciting NF research endeavors.

The biggest news of the night was the launch of the Discovery Fund, an $8 million-dollar initiative supporting the Foundation’s longstanding commitment to driving and funding the best and most promising NF research. Discovery Fund researchers will focus on NF drug development, including basic science to pre-clinical and early stage clinical trials, with the goal of developing new treatments and potential cures. “[The Discovery Fund will] trigger a new wave of discoveries that will lead to the next wave of clinical trials,” said Annette Bakker, PhD, Children’s Tumor Foundation President.

Founding members who have made a leadership commitment to this initiative, Shelley and Frank Haughton, Richard Horvitz and Erica Hartman-Horvitz, Jim Bob and Laurée Moffett, were recognized.

Our special guest for the evening, Alec Baldwin introduced Frank Haughton, who generously matched the first $900,000 raised in the research auction, bringing us even closer to go our goal for the Discovery Fund. During his remarks, Frank drew on his personal connection to NF, I am not a doctor. I am not a researcher, I am not going to discover a cure for NF. I am a dad, I am a granddad, but you know, moms, dads, grandmoms, granddads, we can be powerful, we can give of the resources that have been entrusted to us.”

The medical Humanitarian Award was given to Dr. Peggy Wallace, recognizing her numerous remarkable contributions to the field of NF research, most notably, as a member of the team that discovered the NF gene in 1991, a team led by Dr. Francis Collins. Dr. Collins, currently the Director of the National Institutes of Health, surprised Dr. Wallace with a special video message.

Dr. Wallace, accepting her award, “Although NF has not yet been conquered, great strides have been made, and I have confidence that the future will definitely see an end to NF. Science now has so many great tools that the bottleneck is funding, not ideas.

An emotional highlight of the evening, Colorado Rockies baseball player Ian Desmond shared the stage with NF Hero Ethan Brown. Ian and Ethan have been friends since 2012 after striking up a friendship on Twitter. Through that friendship, Ian’s support for the Children’s Tumor Foundation has flourished. Ian took the stage last night to accept an NF Champion award, “I’m grateful to have been able to see all of this in action over the last 7 years. I have seen the NF Heroes, the fundraisers, the walks, the events, the Cupid’s Undie Runs, the clinical trial results. All of the hard work the Children’s Tumor Foundation has poured into the last 40 years to change the world. I have no doubt that your fight will be a fruitful one, we will see a changed world, one without NF.

2019 NF Ambassador McKinnon Galloway and 2009 NF Ambassador Rose Match Suna were also on hand to pass the torch to our upcoming Ambassador for 2020, Brianna Worden. Brianna, now 22 years old, was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis when she was two months old. (Read more about her NF journey here.) “As the 2020 National Ambassador, I hope to be an advocate for all people affected by NF. This honor means the world to me and I cannot express how thankful I am. This is for all of you. Together, we can End NF!

During their remarks, McKinnon and Rose unveiled the Junior Board, a group of young professionals committed to advancing the Children’s Tumor Foundation mission to drive research, expand knowledge, and advance care for the NF community. (Learn more about the Junior Board here.)

The 2019 National Gala co-chairs, who worked hard to make this a night to remember, were Liz Rodbell, Tracy Galloway, Carol Harrison Kalagher, and Erica Hartman-Horvitz. We were also honored to have NBC Host and Correspondent Raina Seitel serve as master of ceremonies and Darrell Green, NFL the fastest player in NFL history and Pro Football Hall of Famer, join us for the evening.

Thank you to our beloved donors, fundraisers, and volunteers who help make this night so special. We are grateful for your generosity and passion that help us remain committed to our mission to end NF.


To read more about Brianna’s NF story, click here.

To watch the video of Brianna’s NF story, click here.

To watch the video of Dr. Peggy Wallace, click here.

To watch the playlist of 2019 National Gala speeches, click here.

To view more photos from the 2019 National Gala, click here.