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The John Wayne Cancer Institute Auxiliary (JWCIA) honored neurologist and neuro-oncologist Santosh Kesari, MD, PhD, with “The Duke” Special Service Award, and philanthropist and President of Premier Girls Fastpitch Dan Hay with the Generation of Hope Award, at La Odisea, the 34th Odyssey Ball on Saturday, May 4th, 2019, at the Montage Beverly Hills, Los Angeles. Co-Chaired by Katie Lewis and Marisol Zarco, the annual JWCIA flagship fundraiser benefits the John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center. Generous sponsorship of the event was provided by The Adelson Family Foundation.

JWCIA President Martha Harper welcomed guests to an evening of celebration, and introduced Anita Swift, John Wayne’s granddaughter, and an 18-year Board Member of the JWCI. Swift spoke movingly of her grandfather’s battle with cancer, and how proud he would be of his legacy; the amazing progress accomplished by the JWCI, in partnership with Providence Health & Services. Dedicated to research, the JWCI at Providence Saint John’s Health Center has over 30 clinical trials in progress and published more than 60 scientific findings in the last year.

Surrounded by the Wayne Family, Anita Swift presented the Generation of Hope Award to Dan Hay. Founder of Premier Girls Fastpitch and Surf City Tourneys, which promotes female student athletes, Hay has made it a mission to provide his players and their families with breast cancer awareness and skin cancer prevention programs. The tournaments raise awareness for cancer prevention among young athletes, as well as funds for cancer research at the Institute. Through Hay’s advocacy, in the last 7 years, tournaments have raised $350,000 in donations for charity partner, JWCI. Hay was welcomed to the stage by a video tribute that included heartwarming tributes by Taylor Dockins, an award winning softball athlete diagnosed with cancer, who credits Hay with support while she pitches for CSUF, while undergoing treatment, and from his son who recovered from testicular cancer and salutes his father’s support of the cause.

Pastor Rick Muchow, Worship Pastor of Saddleback Church for 25 years, introduced Dr. Santosh Kesari, who is treating Muchow for brain cancer, and proudly presented “The Duke” Special Service Award to Dr. Kesari. As the Director of Neuro-oncology at Pacific Neuroscience Institute, Providence Saint John’s Health Center and Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center Torrance, Kesari also leads the Pacific Neuroscience Research Center at Pacific Neuroscience Institute.

A physician/scientist, Kesari harnesses his experience in surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation therapy and novel devices to help develop Precision Therapeutic Strategies advance medicine to a new stage in the battle against brain tumors. In addition to personally treating a case load of more than 100 patients monthly, Kesari has 30 patents pending and oversees 90 clinical trials, many posting very encouraging medical breakthroughs. Through the innovative immunotherapy procedures that JWCI pioneered, Kesari’s own mother has been successfully treated for skin cancer. He honored his father, an internist who still practices in West Virginia, for inspiring his career and dedication.

Following the awards presentation, auctioneer Rick Werner led a spirited live appeal pledge session. The final tally was twice the fundraising goal, at close to $500,000 in donations “to help make a cancer free future a reality.” Following a champagne toast to the evening and honorees, guests joined the Wayne family on the Terrace of the Montage, for dinner and dancing under the stars, to the music of the Morgan Leigh Band.

Photo Credits: Vince Bucci Photography
Story: Broadway World Los Angeles, May 8, 2019