Kareem Johnson | Digital Journalist

Gateway Chapter of Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Awards Man and Woman of Year Honors in Clayton

By Kareem Johnson | Email the author | April 18, 2011

An event held Thursday in Clayton to benefit people with cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma raised more than $122,000 and attracted about 390 people.

The grand finale gala, held at The Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis, served as the culmination of the Man & Woman of the Year 2011 contest sponsored by the Gateway Chapter of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. It featured fun, food and thoughtful moments.

Ron Hofmeister, president of the chapter’s board of trustees, said this year’s contest is the 12th the chapter has held. During the event, he said he hoped it would be a record night. It was: A silent auction and a live one held at the event netted a record amount of money for programs benefiting those who have leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma and other forms of blood cancer.

The Man & Woman of the Year contest is a spirited eight-week competition in which seven candidates vie for one of those titles by raising money during charity events, pub crawls and more.

“All of the money raised in this campaign directly benefit(s) leukemia research and patient aid,” Hofmeister said.

During the eight weeks of the campaign, every dollar raised counts as a vote. The man and woman to get the largest number of votes are crowned Man and Woman of the Year.

This year’s Man of the Year title went to Mike Hubbell of Chesterfield. He raised $17,549. The Woman of the Year title went to Gail Chellis of South County. She raised $40,888. The 2010 recipients, Danette Davis and Jerry Holloway, presented the awards.

Hofmeister called all of the candidates the “Magnificent Seven.”

“They have just done a fabulous job,” he said. Centene Corporation sponsored the competition along with support from Genentech and Biogen Idec.

The seven participants who competed in this year’s event did so in honor of Brendan Su of Maryland Heights and Sammy Wyeth of St. Charles. The young people served as the local faces of blood-cancer patients for the campaign this year. Their parents—Jayne and Juan Su, and Krissy and Matt Wyeth—shared their experiences with the audience on Thursday.

Wyeth’s daughter Sammy was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) on Dec. 27, 2007. She had been sick for a month before her diagnosis.

“Her doctor wanted to get blood work done to see if she needed fluids, and the next thing we knew we were admitted to a hospital for 30 day(s), and the next day she started chemo,” Krissy Wyeth said. Sammy received treatment for 2 1/2 years. Now, she has been off of treatment for a year. She recently turned 7.

Brendan Su’s mother, Jayne, said her son was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia, an aggressive form of cancer, at 11 months old. Brendan is now in his fifth year after his final chemotherapy treatment

Gail Chellis got involved as a candidate in the competition after being nominated by her friend Maria Ojascastro. The event was something she wanted to do.

“This charity is very near and dear to my heart,” Chellis said. “My father passed away from leukemia in 1996, so I thought that this would be a great way to give back in his honor.” She said she also participated in honor of her friend’s son, who is doing well after being treated for leukemia three years ago.

Nationwide, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is looking to raise $12 million by holding 63 events.

The events are held with several goals in mind. They include treating the sick and educating the public. Other campaigns such as Team in Training and Light the Night Walk also are aimed at raising money and awareness.

Debbie Kerst, executive director of The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, said the Gateway Chapter—which covers eastern Missouri, southern Illinois and Arkansas—raises about $3.4 million each year. In 2010, the money the group raised went toward providing financial aid to patients, offering co-pay assistance and helping more than 5,000 patients with education, support groups and more.

The Gateway Chapter already had another event scheduled this weekend. An Easter egg hunt in Forest Park, called A Hunt for a Cure, was scheduled to take place at Langenberg Field on Saturday, Kerst said.

Leave a Reply