The John Wayne Cancer Institute Auxiliary Honors Gary Sinise and Maggie DiNome, MD at 30th Annual Odyssey Ball

April 22, 2015

Event Raised More Than $1.4 Million To Benefit Cancer Research

2015_ob_honoreesActor and humanitarian Gary Sinise was honored with the True Grit” Humanitarian Award and Maggie DiNome, MD, FACS, director, Cancer Prevention Program and chief of general surgery at Providence Saint John’s Health Center was presented with “The Duke” Special Service Award at the 30th annual Odyssey Ball, April 11, 2015, at the Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire Hotel, Beverly Hills. The yearly fundraising event benefits the John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center and is organized by the John Wayne Cancer Institute Auxiliary led by co-chairs Martha Harper, Colleen Pennell, Elizabeth Rawjee and Jessica Royer. Actor, motivational speaker, author and honored US Army veteran J.R. Martinez hosted the “We Can All Be Heroes” themed gala.

More than $1.4 million was raised at the 30th Annual John Wayne Cancer Institute Auxiliary Odyssey Ball thanks to the generous gifts of Providence Health Services, Inc., the John Wayne Cancer Foundation, Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson and Mrs. Martin Weil.

Virtuoso violinist Lee England, Jr., often dubbed “The Michael Jordan of the violin,” opened the evening with a stirring rendition of “Heroes.” Entertainment continued with The Company Men, America’s first Mash-up group, blending Motown, Rock, Pop and today’s Top 40, who performed an inspirational version of “Stand Strong.” Late night dancing with The Tony Galla Band featuring Billy Valentine followed dinner and the awards presentation.

J.R. Martinez welcomed nearly 500 guests and thanked Odyssey Sponsors, Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson; Odyssey Sponsors, John Wayne Cancer Foundation and the Wayne family; and Platinum Sponsors, John Wayne Cancer Institute, Providence Health & Services and Ruth Weil. In keeping with the evening’s theme, he movingly related the story of his own brush with death while serving in Iraq and subsequent recovery from massive burns. “While I was recovering,” said Martinez, “a nurse asked me to speak to another burn patient. That nurse was a hero because by getting me to think beyond my own pain and recovery, she set me on a path to help others.” Describing the doctors, nurses, scientists, researchers and donors at the John Wayne Cancer Institute as “heroic warriors,” he went on to introduce Anita Swift, John Wayne Cancer Institute Auxiliary president and granddaughter of the late, iconic actor, John Wayne.

“Nobody should come to the movies unless they believe in heroes,” said Swift, referring to a quote of her grandfather’s. Comparing the heroism Wayne showed on screen to the heroism he demonstrated in his courageous battle with cancer, she credited his strength of character and determination as the seed from which his children and Dr. Donald L. Morton came together in 1981 to form the John Wayne Cancer Institute. Shortly thereafter, a group of dedicated women formed the John Wayne Cancer Institute Auxiliary and together have raised more than $18 million to fuel the needed research conducted by the Institute. 

Patrick Wayne, chairman of the John Wayne Cancer Institute and son of the actor, described the family’s vow in forming the Institute, “To end cancer; we knew it wouldn’t happen overnight, but when you pin your ambitions on the name ‘John Wayne,’ you know that nothing but an absolute victory is acceptable.”  He also took a moment to recognize two key additions to the Institute’s team, newly named chief executive, Marcel Loh and Dr. Timothy Wilson, a renowned specialist in the field of prostate cancer.

Dr. Anton J. Bilchik, chief of medicine at John Wayne Cancer Institute and last year’s “The Duke” honoree, provided an overview of the many breakthroughs credited to the Institute and the positive road ahead.

J.R. Martinez presented the “True Grit” Humanitarian Award to Oscar-nominated and Emmy, Golden Globe and SAG award-winning actor Gary Sinise. For more than thirty years, Sinise has advocated in support of America’s veterans. His commitment started in the early 1980s when he began supporting local Vietnam veterans groups in the Chicago area and created the Vets Night program at the Steppenwolf Theatre, giving free meals and performances to Chicago’s veterans. It was his portrayal of Lt. Dan Taylor in the landmark film Forrest Gump, in 1994, which formed an enduring connection with servicemen and women throughout the military community. Shortly after the film opened, Sinise was introduced to the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organization when they presented him with their National Commanders Award for playing the double amputee. His relationship and work with the DAV in support of our wounded service members has lasted for over 20 years.

After the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, he was called to action to do more to support the military men and women who were responding to those attacks. In 2003, he volunteered for the USO, began visiting our troops in Iraq and around the world, and formed the “Lt. Dan Band” named for his character in the landmark film. The band has performed across the globe in support of our defenders and military families. Sinise is also the spokesperson for several veterans organizations and serves on executive councils for the Medal of Honor Foundation, the USO and as an advisory board member for Hope for the Warriors. He has been honored with the Presidential Citizens Medal, the second highest civilian honor awarded for exemplary deeds performed in service of the nation. He is only the third actor ever to receive this honor. Most recently, Sinise was named an honorary Marine, an honorary Chief Petty Officer by the Navy and was awarded the Outstanding Civilian Award. In 2011, he established the Gary Sinise Foundation (www.garysinisefoundation.org) to expand his individual efforts and has raised millions of dollars in support of our veterans and first responders.

Samantha Bryant, former patient and cancer survivor, presented Maggie DiNome, MD, FACS, acting director of the Margie Petersen Breast Center, director of the Cancer Prevention Program, chief of general surgery at Providence Saint John’s Health Center and an assistant professor at the John Wayne Cancer Institute with “The Duke” Special Service Award, calling her “a rock star among doctors.” Dr. DiNome is deeply committed to the fight against cancer and has established herself as a visionary leader turning the focus from not only treatment but also to prevention of this disease. With Grammy Award-winning artist P!nk, Dr. DiNome founded and chairs the Power of Pink fundraisers, elevating the national visibility of the Margie Petersen Breast Center and raising funds for the innovative Cancer Prevention Program. As a faculty member of the John Wayne Cancer Institute, Dr. DiNome is also the principal investigator of a clinical trial pioneering cryotherapy as a novel treatment approach for patients with early stage breast cancer. Dr. DiNome graduated cum laude from Yale University; received her medical degree from Duke University and completed her surgical training at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital of Harvard University Medical School.