When she was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 1998, Kathy Giusti, a businesswoman, wife and mother, was told she only had three years to live. Following her diagnosis, Giusti learned there was no treatment or research conducted to create combative drugs for the disease. Giusti was determined to change that. Together with her twin sister, Karen Andrews, she created the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. Fourteen years later, Giusti is still alive, and her foundation has raised more than $200 million.
On Oct. 27, the MMRF celebrated its 15th annual Fall Gala at the Hyatt Regency in Greenwich, where it honored five-time Grammy Award winner and noted music industry executive Clive Davis with the Spirit of Hope Award, which is given annually to individuals who inspire hope with their perseverance in overcoming personal obstacles.
Funds raised by the foundation will support the development of life-extending treatments for multiple myeloma, an incurable blood cancer.
Giusti, the former director of Searle's worldwide arthritis franchise, spent decades working in the pharmaceutical industry. The experience made it possible for her to build the foundation.
When she started the foundation, the nonprofit sector for multiple myeloma needed new developments in medicine.
"That's what my background provided," Giusti said. "I knew how to run a company and knew how to do drug development."
The MMRF is the leading funder of multiple myeloma research, funding more than 300 grants to more than 200 researchers at more than 120 labs worldwide. Giusti said she is most proud of the fact that the MMRF and its partners have made advances that have more than doubled the life span of multiple myeloma patients.
The greatest challenge for the MMRF's continued success is fundraising, she said.
"We have incredible plans on how to move forward," she said. "We have great partners to move forward with; the only thing that slows us down is the ability to raise the dollars."
Fundraising events like the MMRF's Fall Gala are critical in overcoming that challenge, she said. Last year, the gala raised more than $2 million, and this year the MMRF's goal was to break that record and raise $2.5 million.
At the gala, 1,300 high-impact philanthropists, business and industry leaders, and celebrities filled the Hyatt Regency Greenwich's ballroom to contribute to the cause and enjoy the tribute concert celebrating Clive Davis. The performance featured Jennifer Hudson, Earth, Wind and Fire and NBC's "The Voice!" winner, Jermaine Paul.
The gala took months of preparation and organization.
"We work on planning the gala year-round, and we have already started planning next year's event," said Darien resident Anne Walker, the MMRF's national events director.
While the job of putting together the Fall Gala is not an easy task, Walker said she loves being able to make a difference and contribute to the MMRF's mission.
"It is very gratifying to see the community come together to support such an amazing cause, raise significant funds for cutting edge cancer research and have a great time celebrating, all at the same time," she said.
To learn more about the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation and their efforts visit www.themmrf.org.
Mac McDonough is a freelance writer.