Oct. 6, 2016 | A glamorous bygone era briefly reappeared in Little Rock on Sept. 30 when the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute hosted its 21st annual Gala for Life.
The black-tie fundraiser raised more than $1.2 million and treated about 800 guests to the opulence of 1960’s Las Vegas, complete with showgirls, themed cocktails and an acrobatic “human chandelier” who poured champagne while suspended upside down in the center of the Statehouse Convention Center ballroom.
The Las Vegas-based Rat Pack Trio — featuring the looks and sounds of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. — performed throughout the evening, and a Marilyn Monroe lookalike worked the crowd with the star’s flirtatious style. A surprise performance by the king himself rounded out the night, as an Elvis impersonator took the stage to cap off the evening.
“Even with all the fun and excitement our guests enjoyed, the real purpose of the Gala for Life is to raise much-needed funds for cancer research and education here in Arkansas,” said Cancer Institute Director Peter Emanuel, M.D.
A portion of this year’s net proceeds will benefit the UAMS Radiation Oncology Center, the only facility in Arkansas to provide radiation therapy for both children and adults. Fen Xia, M.D., Ph.D., is chair of the UAMS Department of Radiation Oncology.
The center’s faculty plan to use the event proceeds to expand their research projects and start a radiation oncology residency program designed to train the next generation of Arkansas’ radiation oncologists. Additional funds may be used for equipment upgrades or other needs.
Following an appeal for support via video from Arkansas Razorback head football coach Bret Bielema, guests spontaneously donated funds to send three pediatric radiation oncology patients and their families to the Razorback football game in Fayetteville on Nov. 5. The young patients joined event chairs Carol and Porter Rodgers Jr., M.D., on stage sporting hog noses and kicking off a rousing hog call by emcee and THV news anchor Craig O’Neill.
In addition to chairing the event, the Rodgerses joined Mary Kay and F.E. Joyce, M.D., and family in matching the table card donations received that evening, resulting in an additional $178,930 for the Radiation Oncology Center.