Thousands of bright-colored gowns and neatly pressed tuxedos filled the Hyatt Regency Greenwich Saturday night as people from around the region came out to support an important cause at the 14th annual Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation's fall gala.
The event, said to be the largest and most prominent fundraising event in Fairfield County, also brought out legendary singer and New Canaan resident Paul Simon and famed pianist and vocalist Diana Krall.
Krall, along with her sister, Michelle Krall Wigmore, were honored with the organization's Spirit of Hope Award for their work in raising awareness about the incurable blood cancer, which has one of the lowest survival rates of all cancers. In 2010, more than 20,000 adults in the United States will be diagnosed with the disease and nearly 11,000 people are predicted to die from it, according to the foundation.
The cause is particularly near to the sisters' hearts because they lost their mother to the disease in 2002.
"This honors my mom," Krall said, describing how they participate in similar events in Canada and around the country during the year. "We are happy to do it because we can relate to it so well. It is really lovely."
Kathy Giusti, chief executive and co-founder of the foundation, knew Krall's mother and said it was "heartwarming" to see Diana again. Giusti also has a personal connection to Paul Simon. Her husband and the singer coach their sons' baseball team in New Canaan.
"(The Simons) do have some friends that suffer from the disease, so (Simon) was happy to get involved," Giusti said.
Seeing the nearly 1,200 people who turned out Saturday made Giusti feel that the foundation's mission was working.
"I think it is a reflection of how (people) are appreciative of the results we are able to show," Giusti said, who was diagnosed with multiple myeloma more than a decade ago.
The gala began around 6 p.m. with a cocktail hour and silent auction and transitioned to a dinner inside a tented area before Krall and Simon performed. It was the first time Krall and Simon had performed together, something Krall said would have wowed her mother.
"I grew up learning all the songs and my parents loved him and the spirit of that music," Krall said.
Simon, who showed up later than expected Saturday, was scheduled to perform before Krall. The two were then going to come together for a duet to close the performance.
Krall said every song she was planning to sing had a emotional connection to the cause because they were all songs that her mother loved.
"I am really spontaneous, so some things may come to me that I don't even really expect," Krall said.
Those in attendance said they were excited for the performances and happy to support research to help find a cure for the disease.
"We have some friends with multiple myeloma," said Stephan Zeppelin, of Cos Cob, explaining what brought him to the gala. "I think this is great. It is the pre-eminent event in Greenwich."
Danielle Triplett and Jessica Cestone, both members of the American Association for Cancer Research, came up from Philadelphia to attend the event. "I think this is wonderful," Triplett said. "Kathy and the MMRF have just done an absolutely marvelous thing for multiple myeloma and we wouldn't miss it."
The event was also attended by Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist Deborah Norville, who served as the mistress of ceremonies. It was her ninth year in this role, according to organizers.
The foundation was established in 1998 and has raised over $140 million since its inception to fund nearly 120 laboratories worldwide, according to organizers.