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DREAMS in the City 2017

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DREAMS in the City

On Thursday, May 4th, the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) Foundation held its 12th Annual Dreams in the City gala at Cipriani 25 Broadway in Manhattan, to benefit the cure-focused work of the Diabetes Research Institute in Miami, Florida.  The evening’s honorees were The Besner Family – Leslie Hsu Besner, Greg Besner, and their daughters, Willa and Lana and Willa's Wish Foundation.

Cipriani 25 Broadway is a New York City landmark that features inlaid floors, marble columns, magnificent murals and soaring 65-foot-high ceilings.  Guests enjoyed cocktails and hors d'oeuvres while admiring their lofty surroundings and bidding on a vast array of silent auction items.  As they sat down to dinner, they were welcomed by Master of Ceremonies Chris Wragge, Co-Anchor of CBS 2 News This Morning and CBS 2 News at Noon.  Chris praised all of the sponsors who made the evening possible, and called out for special mention 50-Carat Sponsor, The Inserra Family.  He introduced event co-chair Samantha Shanken Baker, who thanked guests profusely for attending.  Samantha underscored the importance of the Dreams event, which, over a decade-plus, has raised nearly $7 million for the cure-focused research of the DRI.  Samantha paid tribute to her co-chair colleagues, whose tireless efforts made the evening possible:  Bonnie Inserra, Meryl Lieberman, Susan Weiner and Young Professionals’ Chair Lindsey Inserra-Hughes.

DRI immunologist Dr. Allison Bayer, this year's proud recipient of the Marc. S. Goodman Prize for Outstanding Young Scientists, spoke about her work.  The DRI has pioneered a technology known as islet transplantation, a procedure that replaces insulin–producing cells to normalize blood sugars. The DRI has had great success in getting people off daily insulin injections; some for more than 10 years.  The need for life-long use of powerful anti-rejection drugs has limited those who can participate to the most severe cases.  Now, the DRI is doing everything possible to eliminate these drugs, re-educate the immune system and offer cell replacement to all who can benefit.

DRI Foundation President and CEO Josh Rednik was next up, to introduce The Besner Family, for whom the dream of a cure is ever-present.  Willa Besner, now 15 years old, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age four.  These days, Willa and sister Lana counsel others.  The family has been involved for years with the DRI Foundation; first through Carnival for a Cure and through Dad Greg’s participation on our Northeast Board.  In 2012, The Besners established Willa’s Wish Foundation. The DRIF has been a grateful beneficiary, directly and through The Besners’ annual Cocktails for a Cure event.

Willa made a beautiful speech, in which she pointed out that diabetes never takes a day off.  She indicated how little it takes for something to go wrong and she said her heart breaks when she thinks about others throughout the world who go through what she does.  She said how grateful she is to the DRI for its research, and she thanked her family for taking care of her.  Willa said that they have taught her well, and she can take it from here; touching words which caused guests to burst into loud and sustained applause.

Willa’s Mom, Leslie, introduced a heart wrenching video, in which a group of youngsters, Willa included, spoke about what a typical day with diabetes is like.  Together, they sang a song, the refrain of which was, “A little bit longer and I’ll be fine.”  As the house lights rose, those terrific kids finished the song live, in front of the crowd and Asher, Brielle, Eden, Ella, Holden, Kelly, Willa and Zoe received a well-deserved standing ovation.

Chris Wragge encouraged the audience to respond with an outpouring of fundraising support, ignited by a matching gift challenge of $25,000 from the Stacy Joy Goodman Memorial Foundation and that challenge was answered affirmatively.  Donors were encouraged to don blue bracelets and the room was soon enveloped in a sea of blue.

Following the program, guests enjoyed dinner, followed by dancing to the exhilarating music of The Jay Prince Band.  Guests also partook of a dessert bar set in a lounge area. 

This wonderful evening would not have been possible without the generosity of all of the many supporters and friends of the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation.  Warmest thanks are extended in particular to our 50-Carat Sponsor, The Inserra Family; Platinum Sponsors, Stacy Joy Goodman Memorial Foundation and The Shanken Family Foundation; and Diamond Sponsors Meryl Lieberman & Dr. Howard Gould and Mallory & Bradley Buchmann and Donna & Ed Sirlin and Signature Bank. 

To see the gallery of photos from the event, please visit https://msimages.smugmug.com/DREAMS-050417/

Photo credits: Marc S. Levine Photography & Bob Mitchell

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Diabetes Research Institute Foundation
200 S. Park Road, Suite 100
Hollywood, FL 33021
[P]   (954) 964-4040
[TF] (800) 321-3437
[F]   (954) 964-7036

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