More than 500 luminaries in the entertainment, medical science, technology and business sectors gathered for the second annual Rebels With A Cause event held on March 20, resulting in the largest total funds raised to date at one event for the life-saving cancer research of David B. Agus, MD, director of the USC Westside Cancer Center and the USC Center for Applied Molecular Medicine (CAMM), part of the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
The event was co-hosted for the second year by Paramount Pictures chairman and CEO Brad Grey and wife, Cassandra, along with Keck School Dean Carmen A. Puliafito, MD, MBA, who joined co-presenting sponsors for the evening, Lynne and Marc Benioff, founder, chairman and CEO of salesforce.com.
While Larry Ellison, CEO and co-founder of Oracle, was at the event to be honored and support the cause, he announced at the end of his acceptance speech his commitment to match the evening’s fundraising efforts of $4.5 million, for a total of $9 million.
“Tonight’s announcement from Larry Ellison was a truly moving moment,” said Puliafito. “Larry believed in Dr. Agus’s work from the beginning when his Ellison Medical Foundation announced funding for the initiation of our cancer research at the USC Center for Applied Molecular Medicine. The generosity of this evening’s guests as well as the visionary champions we have in Larry and Brad Grey will continue to ensure cancer patients today and in the future have hope for better outcomes and improved survival rates at USC.”
Stage 31 at Paramount Studios was turned into a beautifully serene white set for the evening’s event, emceed by late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel. Hip-hop/R&B singer-songwriter-producer Pharrell Williams performed his Oscar-nominated tune “Happy” to open the event.
Grammy, Tony and Emmy awarding-winning star Barry Manilow had the crowd on its feet by performing several of his hit songs, including “I Made It Through the Rain,” “Copacabana” and ending with “One Voice,” performed with 62 members of the USC Thornton School of Music Choir, all organized by David Foster. One of the most poignant moments of the evening was actors Jonah Hill and Anna Kendrick reading aloud the life-changing letters of Agus’ patients.
“I first met David Agus through Sumner Redstone, and as I’ve gotten to know David through the years I’ve become a huge admirer,” said Grey, whose fundraising efforts over the last two years have helped raise a significant amount for CAMM. “It’s extraordinary work he’s doing. When you see how horrible cancer is, you want to do everything you can to put personalized medicine on the map and to really go after genomic testing, gene sequencing and everything we can tackle. That is what David and USC do better than anyone.”
“Both Larry and Brad have been champions for the breakthroughs in our research to find better ways to manage cancer patient treatments,” said Agus. “Philanthropy is allowing us to think outside of the box — to do things differently to fight cancer, to take the risks needed — to treat the millions of people worldwide impacted by cancer.”
—By Sherri Snelling