When 600-some supporters of the GI Research Foundation gather on May 20th to dine, dance, and mingle at the organization’s 56th annual ball, black tie will be the order of the evening. But the money raised at the event will fund the work of people with an entirely different dress code: white coat.
As the foundation’s biggest fundraiser, the ball represents a tremendous opportunity for GI Research Foundation supporters to help improve life for patients. The proceeds from the event will fund a myriad of scientific and medical efforts for the benefit of the tens of millions of people who live with digestive diseases. “Our goal is to fund as much research as we can,” says Ball Co-Chair and GI Research Foundation board member Katie Chudnovsky. “The researchers whose studies we fund are the people the rest of the world is waiting for.” In addition to comedian Dana Carvey and the music of the Larry King Orchestra, the evening will feature—in lieu of a silent or live auction—a paddle raise that will allow attendees to donate in support of a specific study or piece of medical equipment. Chudnovsky and her ball co-chair, fellow GI Research Foundation board member Beatrice G. Crain, have worked hard for months to make the ball a success. Their commitment to the event’s success reflects many years of devotion to GIRF and its leadership. How many years, you ask? In her case, “let’s say it’s over 25,” Crain says with a smile.
Actually, her involvement with the GI Research Foundation has its roots in World War II, when her husband and Joseph B. Kirsner, MD, founding father of the GI Research Foundation and longtime champion, met while serving in the military. After the war, their friendship continued, and once the GI Research Foundation was established in 1962, the Crains became avid supporters. She remembers with great fondness that whenever she or her husband had a family member in the hospital, “even though they weren’t his patients, Dr. Kirsner looked in on them and checked their charts, to see that everyone was being taken care of.” “He showed such loyalty to our family, and I in turn felt the same way about him,” she says. Chudnovsky, meanwhile, became involved with GI Research Foundation about four years ago. She has both family members and close friends affected by gastrointestinal disease, and “I want to make a difference where I can,” she says. “This is something that I deal with personally, in my everyday life, and what the GI Research Foundation is doing is truly meaningful.” She’s amazed by the number of breakthroughs she’s seen in her time at the foundation. “Most studies are years and years from coming up with something,” she points out. “I’ve seen multiple successes already.” The proceeds from this year’s ball are expected to exceed last year’s, which topped $1 million. It’s a far cry from the long-ago days when Dr. Kirsner was given $100 to fund studies for an entire year. As Chudnovsky says, “It makes us feel really good to be able to do so much more.” Tickets for the GI Research Foundation 56th Annual Ball are available at giresearchfoundation.org.
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