Honoring America at the Love and Hope Ball

Grand Humanitarians Roberta & Dr. Harvey Chaplin

At the 36th Annual Love and Hope Ball, “Honoring America,” U.S. Senior Airman Tre F. Porfirio was recognized alongside the leaders of his medical team who collaborated to save him from a life of brittle diabetes after he was injured in Afghanistan. Also apropos of its patriotic theme, International Chairmen Linda and Barry Gibb proudly announced their new American citizenship, something Barry dreamed of since he was 17 years old. Held at the Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa, this extraordinary black-tie gala, combined with November’s Preview Party, raised $1 million for the cure-focused work of the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI).

More than 600 guests rose to a standing ovation when Porfirio was introduced with the DRI’s Camillo Ricordi, MD, and Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Craig D. Shriver, MD FACS, COL MC.
After being shot by three high-velocity bullets, doctors determined that Porfirio’s pancreas was damaged beyond repair. Since the removal of the organ would cause the most brittle form of diabetes, Porfirio’s pancreas was surgically removed and shipped from Washington D.C. to Miami, where members of the DRI team spent six hours isolating the insulin-producing islet cells from the Airman’s pancreas.

Dr. Ricordi, a pioneer in the diabetes field, is world renowned for developing the method to isolate islets from the pancreas. The islets were flown back to Washington D.C., and Dr. Ricordi assisted Walter Reed surgeons via an Internet connection in successfully infusing the newly isolated cells into Porfirio’s liver. In less than a month, he no longer needed to take insulin injections.

Honorary Chairmen Cliff & Jill Viner

“The Love and Hope Ball has had many different themes – all to raise money for the DRI. Tonight we give tribute to our country and our fighting men and women who allow us to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave,” Barry Gibb said. “The Diabetes Research Institute has come so far and is close to the defining moment when a cure is found. We salute the DRI and we salute our country, the United States of America.”

Accolades continued when Love and Hope Life Chairman Emeritus Sonja Zuckerman and Executive Chairman Sandra Levy gave special recognition to the other stars of the gala, the honorees: Grand Humanitarians Roberta and Dr. Harvey Chaplin; Honorary Chairmen Jill and Cliff Viner; Love Honorees Marion and Dr. Donald Golden; Hope Honorees Lenore Toby-Simmons and Dr. Bernard Simmons; Preview Party Hostess Isabel May; Cocktail Reception Hosts Sandy and Senator Paul Steinberg; Shining Star Francine Lowe; Gold Star Shirley Harris; Silver Star Florence Frank; and Platinum Stars Suzanne and Donald Bezahler. National Chairman Kathy Simkins was also recognized, as were sponsors: The GEO Group, Neiman Marcus Bal Harbour, Saks Fifth Avenue Bal Harbour, and Positive ID. Emcee for the dinner program was Katrina Campins of “The Apprentice.”

After Zuckerman uttered her time-honored phrase, “Let’s eat, drink, dance and have a ball,” sparklers exploded from the top of each flowered centerpiece. Then, set to the appropriate soundtrack of Neil Diamond’s “Coming to America,” an exhilarating laser lights show entertained the crowd before Debbie Taylor & Standing Ovation kicked off their set with Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA.”

Love Honorees Dr. Donald & Marion Golden

The ballroom was bedazzled in blue and white, contrasting the red motif of the grand cocktail reception. Between dinner and dancing, guests bid on exciting silent auction items, which included not only gorgeous jewelry and exotic adventures, but also a Maserati GranTurismo.

The Diabetes Research Institute, a center of excellence at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, is a recognized world leader in cure-focused research. Since its inception in the early 1970s, the DRI has made significant contributions to the field of diabetes research, pioneering many of the techniques used in islet transplantation. The DRI is now building upon these achievements by bridging cell-based therapies with emerging technologies to restore insulin production. For the millions of families already affected by diabetes, the Diabetes Research Institute is the best hope for a cure. Visit DiabetesResearch.org or call 800-321-3437 for more information

Hope Honorees Dr. Bernard Simmons & Lenore Toby-Simmons