Gift of Life hosted its Virtual One Huge Night Gala on Wednesday, October 6, 2021, with six-time Emmy and Tony nominated actress, singer, and playwright Tovah Feldshuh serving as the master of ceremonies. Despite the geographic space between the hundreds of supporters who participated, the evening was highly emotional as we celebrated Gift of Life’s 30th Anniversary, introduced a grateful father and husband to the heroic woman who saved his life, and honored many of our incredible supporters.
Transplant recipient Corbitt was excited and grateful when he met Abigail (Abby) Weiss, whose stem cell donation in May 2019 saved his life. Gift of Life supporter Lynn Schusterman, Founder and Chair Emerita of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies, introduced them. Corbitt and his wife Tammy were shocked when they learned Acute Myelogenous Leukemia was the cause of his sudden loss of energy and body aches. While chemotherapy left him in remission, he was at high risk for experiencing a relapse, and a stem cell transplant was the best option to prevent it. When none of his siblings was a match, a search of the worldwide registry found Abby, and when contacted by Gift of Life, she jumped at the opportunity to donate.
She joined the registry in 2014 during a drive at Tulane University and knew exactly what she was signing up to do: her father, Jeffrey, donated stem cells to a blood cancer patient in 2005, when Abby was only ten years old. She almost couldn’t believe it when she received the call that she was a match.
“It was a real privilege to be a match for you,” Abby told Corbitt. “Hearing about your experience only deepens what I already felt, that it is super special to get to be a part of your story.”
“[After having cancer] you reassess your values and what’s important to you; you become much better at telling people you love them,” said Corbitt. “I have changed a lot and I’m a better person now. It’s fun to get a second chance – and you are an amazing soul.”
Click here to read about Abby's donation day experience.
The third annual Steven Bochco Award was presented by Steven’s son, Jesse Bochco, to Gift of Life donor and volunteer Jared Stein. The award is presented to a Gift of Life volunteer who creatively uses their personal story to further the organization’s life-saving mission. Jared joined the registry in 2011, and just over a year later donated stem cells to Jill Ginsberg, a 61-year-old woman battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. They met in 2015 at the first Celebrating Life event. Jared has run more than 30 drives and swabbed over 1,100 people, resulting in seven lives saved to date. Jared and his family are deeply involved in organizing the Steps for Life 5k of Boston, and in 2017, they were recognized with Gift of Life’s Distinguished Service Award. Jared is a co-chair of the Boston Young Professionals Committee.
“Being a donor has changed my life,” said Jared. “I’ve run drives in colleges, gotten involved with the Young Professionals Committees in New York and Boston…but when I speak to my recipient, that puts things in perspective way more than anything else I can do.”
In honor of its 30th anniversary, Gift of Life recognized long-term supporters whose contributions have helped make the organization what it is today:
Thirty years ago, Gift of Life began as a grassroots effort to find a matching bone marrow donor for Jay Feinberg. After a four-year search for a match, Jay received a transplant to cure leukemia and dedicated his life to helping others find their donors. Gift of Life has now saved more than 4,000 lives, and positively impacted thousands of their family members. The Organization continues to innovate and work towards its mission of a world where every patient finds their cure. In the past two years, Gift of Life has opened the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Collection Center, and Gift of Life’s Center for Cell and Gene Therapy. This year saw the launch of Gift of Life Biologics to help medical research organizations develop the advanced cellular treatments that will save more lives.
Since the pandemic began, recruiting new donors has been a particular challenge for Gift of Life’s Campus Ambassadors, who typically hold in-person drives on campuses across the United States. One ambassador did an outstanding job of inviting her fellow students to join the registry in the face of this challenge: Madison Taylor. A senior at Utah State University where she is majoring in Health Education and Promotion, Madison stood out among 300 Campus Ambassadors. She held numerous virtual and in-person events, swabbing close to 200 new donors, one of whom became a match for a patient in September. Gift of Life was proud to recognize her with the Rising Star Award during the Gala.
“I absolutely love being able to see that our work as Campus Ambassadors does pay off and is so rewarding,” said Madison.
Thank you to everyone who joined us for the live event. Together, we raised more than $1.2 million. We look forward to greeting you all in person in 2022.
Click here to watch the full one-hour video.