31st Annual Lombardi Gala Raises $1.4 Million

November 19, 2017 — Close to 700 Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center supporters turned out for the 31st annual Lombardi Gala in Washington Saturday night as the cancer center honored a philanthropist, a researcher and a broadcast journalist. Through sponsorships, auction items and gifts large and small, nearly $1.4 million was raised for Washington’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Bryant Gumbel Honored

Emmy Award-winning television journalist and sportscaster Bryant Gumbel received the NFL Players Association Georgetown Lombardi Award presented annually to honor leaders from the world of sports whose lives have been touched by cancer and who have supported cancer research, prevention and treatment through awareness and philanthropy.

Gumbel, who has largely remained private about his health, told the audience of his “relationship with cancer” after two cancer diagnoses, both in 2009.

“I’m here because of the brilliance, the tireless efforts and the unselfishness of a lot of professionals who are very much like the people in this room. The people who work with the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center,” he said. (Gumbel was not treated at Georgetown Lombardi.)

NFLPA executive director and gala honorary chair DeMaurice Smith presented the award to Gumbel.

Jeanne Ruesch Recognized for Her Philanthropy

Jeanne Ruesch’s generous support of Georgetown Lombardi was recognized with the Margaret L. Hodges Leadership Award. Ruesch founded The Ruesch Center for the Cure of Gastrointestinal Cancers at the Georgetown Lombardi, led by John Marshall, MD, in honor of her late husband Otto.

“This award, the Margaret Hodges Leadership Award, is really not for me,” Ruesch said. “It is a tribute to the patients who inspire us day after day to live our lives bravely and fully, to John Marshall and his team who are dedicated to finding a cure and improving patient outcomes and to my husband Otto, who walked through life with such grace and passion and who constantly reminded me that we cannot bring about change if we stand on the sidelines.”

A new award established to honor John F. Potter, MD, Georgetown Lombardi’s founder, recognizes the achievements of an early career scientist. The inaugural award was presented to Darren Mays, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of oncology whose work focuses on cancer prevention behaviors, especially among adolescents and young adults.

“To describe this as a profound honor would be quite an understatement — to be recognized by this award that has been named after the founder of our cancer center,” Mays expressed. “No one really succeeds in research without the support of others,” Mays said, thanking Georgetown Lombardi’s leadership, including the leaders of its cancer prevention and control program.

Vast appeal

Later in the evening, the room erupted with a tremendous show of support for Georgetown Lombardi during an auction-style appeal where those seated in the audience raised their bid cards to make donations ranging from $250 to $10,000. Dozens of individual donations led to a $200,000 boost to the total dollars raised for the evening.

But a surprise announcement by Georgetown Lombardi’s director, Louis M. Weiner, MD, punctuated the night’s activity and brought the crowd to their feet.

Weiner introduced Tony and Jeannie Loop and announced their $1 million donation to establish the Jeannie and Tony Loop Immuno-Oncology Laboratory at Georgetown Lombardi for Samir Khleif, MD, a newly recruited immunotherapy scientist.

The evening drew to a close in the same way it has for several years — with the raffle drawing for a brand new Lexus.

Edwin Siegel was the lucky winner of the 2017 NXF Sport Lexus donated by Washington Area Lexus dealers.

“The energy in this room reminds me every year of why we do this,” Weiner said. “It’s also the energy in this room that makes this night possible. Your work gives us the opportunity to do the cutting edge experiments that will make a difference in the lives of people at Georgetown, in DC and around the world. Remember, ending cancer starts here.”

The co-chairs of this year’s Lombardi gala are Jerry Castro and Catherine Conway Castro, and Bruce Merlin Fried and Lisa Hill. The NFLPA's Smith served as honorary chair for the 8th year.

Georgetown Lombardi wishes to thank the Presenting Sponsors Tim and Linda O’Neill; Diamond Sponsors, the Ruesch Family Foundation, and Pierre and Laurie Lapeyre and all others who helped make the Gala a success. The complete list of sponsors can be found here.