Every three minutes, an individual in the United States is diagnosed with blood cancer, and organizations like the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) hope to reduce this number and aid in the fight to ultimately cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma.
In an effort to do so, the New Jersey chapter of the LLS recently held its 2016 Man & Woman of the Year (MWOY) Grand Finale Gala at the Ocean Place Resort & Spa in Long Branch, honoring three men and three women who raised funds during a 10-week-long campaign.
The night kicked off with Jana Boyer, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the LLS, and Guy Adami, 2015’s Man of the Year and former CNBC “Fast Money” host, introducing the six nominees, while also introducing two children who have suffered from leukemia (LLS’s Boy and Girl of the Year), Leeya Gabay and Alec Kazandjian.
“I want to thank our candidates and their teams who have been on this 10-week long journey to help raise money and awareness for research, while supporting individuals like Leeya and Alec, who are two of the main reasons why we are here on this night,” Boyer said.
Followed by introductions, Darris Crandall, the father of Jackson Crandall, an eight-year-old boy born with down syndrome and diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, took the stage to share his message with the crowd of approximately 300 people.
“Watching my son Jackson and the way he conducts himself – whether he is learning new words or putting on his socks and shoes – he just never quits,” Crandall said. “And now, I am extremely happy to say that it was with that same conviction, he was able to beat leukemia. I think that is what showcases the strength and beauty of humanity and the human spirit in its purest form, and that is what brings us together in this room tonight.”
The first award of the night – The Beacon of Hope Award – was presented to 2016 MWOY candidate Kelly Benedit, in honor of NJ LLS’s previous executive director, Stacey Weathers, who passed away last year in a tragic accident. “Stacy dedicated her life to helping those with cancer, and The Beacon of Hope award was presented to Kelly, who represents Stacy’s values and acts as Stacy did,” Adami said.
After the awards and numerous silent and live auctions, two of the night’s six honorees who raised the most money during the MWOY campaign were announced as the winners. Chris Ashley, of Urner Barry, who raised $37,000, and Sarah Cirelli, formerly of Withum Smith+Brown, who raised $45,000, were crowned the 2016 winners.
“From all of our MWOY candidates and from everyone’s generosity tonight, we are happy to announce that we’ve raised more than $400,000 for the fight against blood cancer,” Adami said. “So, everybody tonight is a winner. The only real loser is cancer.”