Thanks to the support of our event sponsors and all who contributed by attending, donating and participating in the silent auction and raffle, we are thrilled to announce the Believe Ball raised $450,000 in its inaugural year!
When the Emily Whitehead Foundation was first launched, our co-founders dreamed of one day hosting a ball in honor of all who pioneered the immunotherapy treatment that saved their daughter and inspired them to Believe.
On Saturday, October 28, this dream came true as several hundred people, including CAR-T cell therapy patients and the doctors, researchers and others who have worked to develop this treatment, joined us at the inaugural Emily Whitehead Foundation Believe Ball at Valley Forge Casino Resort in King of Prussia, Pa.
“To raise $450,000 at our first gala definitely makes it a huge success and will help save many more children’s lives,” says Emily Whitehead Foundation co-founder Tom Whitehead. “We are humbled by how many people volunteered so much of their time to pull off such an amazing event.”
Years of dreaming and months of planning by our dedicated volunteers culminated in what can only be described as a magical evening in support of furthering childhood cancer research. The event’s theme, “Write A Better Story”, was inspired by the need to make more targeted and less toxic treatment options, such as CAR-T cell therapy, available for all children with cancer.
There was no better representation of this than when CAR-T cell therapy patients in attendance, ages ranging 21 to 4 years old, joined our EMbassador Award recipients, Barbara Netter, Dr. Carl June, Dr. Stephan Grupp, Dr. Bruce Levine, Samuele Butera, and Dr. Jim Powell, on stage. The inspiring moment illustrated the night’s significance as the first and largest gathering of its kind for those treated with and working to develop CAR-T cell therapy.
“Having the largest gathering of these T-cell patients and families to date was always our dream. Seeing them stand together makes you realize how this Immunotherapy revolution is changing the world,” says Tom Whitehead.
We were proud to recognize each of our EMbassador Award recipients for their roles in activating the cure for kids with cancer, and are especially grateful for the opportunity to honor the generosity of Barbara Netter and her late husband Edward in funding the initial CAR-T cell therapy research. Their support of Dr. June’s research at Penn Medicine helped to make possible the storyline that resulted in getting the CAR-T cell treatment to clinical trials, in Emily being the first pediatric patient treated in the trial at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, in hundreds of children living happy and healthy lives post CAR-T, and in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granting the treatment approval this past summer.
“It was such an honor to present these EMbassador Awards to the people who played such an important role in saving Emily and now so many others,” says Tom Whitehead. “I will remember this night for the rest of my life.”
It was also a pleasure to welcome a few of our award recipients, Dr. June, Dr. Grupp, Dr. Levine, and Novartis Oncology’s Samuele Butera as speakers, along with “Fire with Fire” director Ross Kauffman; T-cell therapy parents Don McMahon, Amy and Greg Kappen, and Chris and Dana Lee; and T-cell therapy patient advocate Nicole Gularte.
While the Believe Ball celebrated that which has been accomplished thus far in developing CAR-T cell therapy for pediatric Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), there are still more chapters to be written and still more treatments to be developed so that children with all types of cancer can have the opportunity to activate their cure.
“We tell Emily often that when you live life with a purpose and Believe in yourself without setting any limits, then you can change the world and make it a better place,” says Tom Whitehead. “Our goal is for all children fighting cancer to go home healthy and happy and cancer free.”
We hope that all of our guests enjoyed the night and were as inspired by the speeches and stories as we are, and that the moments we captured from the night will continue to inspire everyone to Believe in writing a better story with us!
Donations to the Believe Ball are still being accepted. Help us pen the next chapter in childhood cancer research by giving here.