The ballroom at the Bacara Resort & Spa was decked out in gold for the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) annual Riviera Ball, while many of the guests opted for classic black gowns and tuxes for this elegant affair. The December 3 event honored Dr. Frederic Kass, medical director at the Cancer Center of Santa Barbara, with the Physician of the Year Award and honored cancer patient Amaia Laskin. A preliminary tally indicated that the event raised $100,000.
After the cocktail reception, guests were greeted over dinner by co-chairs Denise Sanford and Chuck Bischof and entertained by a stunning flamenco performance by dancers from the Linda Vega Dance Studio. ACS CEO Gary Reedy addressed the guests via video, noting the remarkable 22 percent decline in cancer death rates in the United States in the past two decades.
Emcee Janet Garufis introduced Kass, who humbly accepted the award on behalf of his staff and patients. He shared that the key is to “work in a place with really great staff, and then you find really extraordinary patients with whom to partner, and then just sit back, do your work, and have them make you look good.”
Kass noted that he has practiced “cancer medicine for 30 years, and there is almost nothing scientifically that practice now has in common with where we were 30 years ago … I feel that the privilege of being an oncologist for the last few decades has been to be a witness to the extraordinary transformation of cancer medicine for much of which we owe ACS a great deal of thanks.” Garufis praised Kass “not just for his extraordinary talent, but for his extraordinary heart,” as well.
Laskin, 18 and in her first year at Santa Barbara City College, shared her traumatic battle with Acute Lymphoblasic Leukemia. After a diagnosis in the summer of 2014, she underwent surgery and 30 months of intense chemotherapy which led to many horrendous complications. Her positive spirit, eloquence, and poise were touching and inspiring.
Andrew Firestone lent his trademark passion and humor to the lively auction and paddle raise, and then DJ Scott Topper played the dance tunes to a packed dance floor.
The funds raised at the event support research and free services to cancer patients, health-care providers and caregivers. ACS is the largest private funder of cancer research and has invested more than $4.5 billion since 1946.
In Santa Barbara, the ACS provides many valuable services to patients, all free of charge. The Road to Recovery Program, with 22 volunteer drivers, provides transportation to and from treatment. The Look Good Feel Better Class, offered monthly, provides guidance on coping with the appearance-related side effects of treatment. Licensed beauty professionals cover topics including makeup, skin care, and wigs and headwear. The Reach to Recovery Program connects breast cancer patients with trained breast cancer survivors for understanding, support, and guidance. Last year, 142 patients participated in the various programs.
In addition to the Riviera Ball, the ACS holds other fundraisers each year including the Relay for Life, Bark for Life, and Making Strides Against Cancer. Hundreds of volunteers make these events possible.
For more information about the American Cancer Society, go to cancer.org.
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