Dancing with the Stars of Love and Hope

39th Annual Love and Hope Ball raises more than $1 million for Diabetes Research Institute

Life Chairman Sonja Zuckerman with Diabetes Research Institute Foundation President and CEO Robert A. Pearlman

For almost 40 years, Life Chairman Sonja Zuckerman has been at the helm of Love and Hope. Nearly 3 decades ago, Executive Chairman Sandra Levy joined her. Together with their hands-on committee, this remarkable pair succeeded once again in impressing 400+ guests with stunning decor and thrilling surprises at the 39th Annual Love and Hope Ball. Held February 2 at the Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa, this extraordinary black-tie gala, combined with November’s Preview Party, raised more than $1 million for the cure-focused work of the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI) at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. During the dinner program, UM President Donna Shalala praised the longstanding partnership between the entities.

“As you all know, it takes two to tango. And tonight’s theme of Dancing with the Stars of Love and Hope celebrates a dynamic duo as stellar as Astaire and Rogers…The DRI Foundation is the single largest donor in the University’s history, providing more than $225 million in support to date for translational research at the DRI. It is indeed a privilege for me to dance tonight with those who have brought us so far,” she said, referring to the Love and Hope family, the dedicated group which has raised almost $50 million to date.

Executive Chairmen Sid and Sandra Levy (c) with their family (l-r) Robert, Kim and Brittany Pushkin, and Ellie and Lee Bernstein.

Mistress of Ceremonies Lisa Petrillo recognized the evening’s honorees, including Honorary Chairman Shirley Harris; Love Honoree Betty Madigan Brandt, Hope Honorees Robin and Jordan Weitz, Gold Stars Beatrice and Dr. Sanford Ziff, and Silver Stars Sandy and Senator Paul Steinberg, as well as the sponsors, who were Donna and George Zoley of The GEO Group, Joseph Lubeck and Sid Levy of Landmark Residential, Neiman Marcus Bal Harbour, Saks Fifth Avenue Bal Harbour and Miami Magazine.

Sonja Zuckerman also addressed the crowd, praising her committee, most of whom have been volunteering their time and efforts alongside her for 39 years, and extending special appreciation to Sandra Levy, asking her to stand beside her on stage. “This is a work of love, and we do it from the bottom of our hearts,” Zuckerman said. After uttering her time-honored phrase, “Now let’s eat, drink, dance and have a ball,” fireworks exploded from the center of the dance floor, which soon was alive with movers and shakers. The room sparkled, and everything from the walls to the ice sculptures to the desserts reflected the evening’s theme.

Honorary Chairman Shirley Harris with
UM President Donna Shalala

Debbie Taylor and Standing Ovation kept the party going, and professional dancers enticed even the most hesitant into action. Unbeknownst to the guests, dancers were judged, and near the end of the night, Levy surprised three couples with awards! Among them were Roberto and Dr. Judy Schaechter, Rosie and Carlos Capo, and Nancy and Jerry Blair.

The Diabetes Research Institute leads the world in cure-focused research. As the largest and most comprehensive research center dedicated to curing diabetes, the DRI is aggressively working to shrink the timeline toward the discovery of a biological cure for this disease. Having already shown that diabetes can be reversed through islet transplantation, the DRI is building upon these promising outcomes by bridging cell-based therapies with emerging technologies. The Diabetes Research Institute was created for one reason – to cure diabetes – which is and will continue to be its singular focus until that goal is reached. For the millions of people affected by diabetes, the DRI is the best hope for a cure. Visit DiabetesResearch.org or call 800-321-3437 for more information or to be placed on the invitation list for the 40th Anniversary Love and Hope Ball!

Photo Credit: Andrew Milne