Michael J. Fox, Stars Continue Fight to Fund Parkinson's Research at Annual Gala
Ryan Reynolds, Julianne Moore, Katie Couric and 'Today's' Willie Geist were among those supporting the cause
Some of New York's biggest stars gathered at the Waldorf-Astoria on Saturday night to support Michael J. Fox's Parkinson's foundation at its annual benefit.
Fox and his famous friends have been raising funds through the glitzy gala for years, but the actor told The Hollywood Reporter that his eponymous organization still isn't quite where it wants to be in terms of being able to raise enough money to fund research.
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"I think we have $75 million ready to spend this year, we have $150 million in ideas, so the money has not met the science yet, and that's what we strive to do is to get to where we have an idea, we have an avenue that we can see some potential in and be able to fund that right away," Fox said.
Still, this year's event certainly helped, raising more than $5.4 million, which Fox noted is pure money for research, since the cost of the benefit is underwritten by the board.
Ryan Reynolds, whose dad has Parkinson's and who serves on the Fox Foundation board, noted that much of the benefit's fundraising was done in advance, so those who attend the gala can just have fun.
"It's not a hard sell. There's no one onstage forcing people to open their wallets right now and that happens a lot of times at these larger fundraisers," Reynolds told THR. "It's all happened in advance. So everyone comes in having a good time. It's a relaxed atmosphere; it's great."
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He added that he thinks it helps that Fox and Co. put on a good show.
In keeping with his tradition of playing guitar with a musician onstage, this year Fox accompanied Paul Simon on "Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard" and "You Can Call Me Al." In addition to Simon's acoustic set, guests were entertained by host Colin Quinn and comedian Tom Papa, who told THR he was struck by how well-attended the gala is.
"It's such a high-profile thing. Nobody really knows who I am that much, but all of these other high-wattage celebrities [are here], and just when I would go around New York doing spots, doing stand-up, all of these people would tell me that they were going and that friends of friends were going to the event, so it becomes this big New York thing every year," he said. "I just think it shines a great light on it."
Willie Geist was also on hand for the gala and, like Reynolds' dad, Geist's father is battling Parkinson's.
The Today co-host, who also serves on the Fox Foundation board and attended last year's gala, said that his personal connection to the disease means he'll keep attending the annual event.
"There's literally nothing more important in my life than finding a cure for this disease, and this is the organization that's doing it best," he said. "And Michael is a friend and an inspiration, and I'll come back every year until the end of time until they crack this code."
Other guests at the gala included Julianne Moore, Katie Couric, Mario Batali, John Slattery, J.B. Smoove, Rachael Ray and Jim Gaffigan.