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The WaterFire Arts Center was transformed to capture the festive ambience of one of the world’s most romantic cities when The Miriam Hospital hosted its annual gala and auction, Magic of Venice, at Providence’s newest event venue on Saturday, May 13. Representing The Miriam’s largest and most crucial annual fundraiser, more than 500 hospital friends and supporters attended the sold out event, coming together to raise $785,700.
The funds raised will benefit The Miriam Fund for a New Generation to support the hospital’s greatest and most pressing needs, along with helping to advance The Miriam’s renowned oncology services. Of the total raised, the live and super silent auctions, and fund-a-need generated $386,600 to expand research and treatment for bladder and other genitourinary cancers at The Leonard and Adele R. Decof Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at The Miriam Hospital, part of the Lifespan Cancer Institute. Rhode Island has the highest per capital incidence of bladder cancer in the United States.
“Words alone are not enough to thank our co-chairs, event committee, donors and sponsors for always being by our side and for making this event a huge success that will directly benefit our patients and their families,” said Arthur J. Sampson, president of The Miriam Hospital.
Co-chaired by Grace Dugan and her husband, Greg Pizzuti, Magic of Venice began with an Italian-inspired cocktails and hors d’oeuvres reception, followed by welcome remarks from hospital leadership and Gloria Winston, a 90-year-old volunteer who personifies The Miriam and has been volunteering at the hospital for more than six decades. Guests were then introduced to two Miriam patients who shared their stories of their journey with bladder cancer in an emotional video that cast light on the innovative treatments that saved their lives.
Before a dinner of delectable Italian cuisine prepared by Russell Morin Catering & Events, professional auctioneer Paul Zekos of The Zekos Group presented the night’s live auction. Among the impressive packages to generate exciting, yet friendly bidding wars was a specialty “Cocktail Supper” for 25 by Russell Moring Catering & Events, and a travel excursion for two for eight memorable days in Italy courtesy of Collette Vacations. With interest emanating throughout the room, each package sold two times over, with each “Cocktail Supper” going for $10,000 and each Italy getaway generating $12,000.
As Paul Zekos prepared for the fund-a-need, longtime Miriam donors Betty and Joe Brito surprised everyone when they announced a challenge to match all donations at the $500, $2,500 and $5,000 levels, up to a total of $100,000. Further inspired by the couple’s generosity, guests met the challenge, raising their bid numbers high and often.
“The unprecedented and completely unexpected philanthropic gesture of Betty and Joe Brito in support of this year’s fund-a-need truly put the magic in our Magic of Venice theme,” said Arthur J. Sampson. “Our gratitude to the Britos for their incredible generosity can’t be overstated.”
“The Miriam Hospital holds a special place in our hearts and we could not be more honored to have served as co-chairs of this year’s gala,” added Grace Dugan. “Like so many, our lives have been touched by cancer. We wanted to do something to help others battling this dreadful disease,” concluded Greg Pizzuti.
After the fund-a-need, guests danced the night away to the sounds of GQ and The Lady.
The Miriam Hospital extends its thanks and appreciation to Magic of Venice presenting sponsors Amica Mutual Insurance and University Orthopedics; leadership donor Amica Companies Foundation; platinum sponsors Amaral Revite General Contractors and Med Tech Ambulance Service, and the more than five dozen sponsors who contributed generously to the event’s success.