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It was a night of glamour and giving at the John Wayne Cancer Institute Auxiliary’s 32nd Annual Odyssey Ball, held Saturday night at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.
The hotel’s ballroom was transformed into a Rat Pack-era casino where showgirls in tall feather headdresses and sparkling bustiers mixed easily with guests who sipped martinis and took their chances on the green felt table games — using fake money, of course.
Wayne died in 1979 from stomach cancer, and since his passing, his family has used his legacy to help raise millions of dollars to fund cancer research and treatments at the John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica.
At dinner, guests dined on prime rib and shrimp cocktails and heard inspirational stories of patients whose lives had been saved by the work of doctors affiliated with the Institute.
Vince Vaughn was honored with the “True Grit” Humanitarian Award. During his acceptance speech, he spoke about why working with the organization was so important to him.
“We have had two family members lost to cancer, so this is something that definitely touched me and I was happy to come be a part of this, especially with all the great work done by the Institute,” he said.
Earlier in the night, Vaughn spoke about what Wayne had meant to him as an actor.
“He was such a part of the American culture,” said Vaughn. “I definitely watched all his movies growing up, and I really saw him as such an iconic man onscreen. It’s funny — my makeup artist, Bruce Grayson, his father was John Wayne’s [makeup artist], and he has nothing but great things to say about him. Just how kind he was and considerate.”
Honored alongside Vaughn was oncologist and melanoma specialist Dr. Steven J. O’Day, who was given “The Duke” Special Services Award for his work developing new cancer therapies.
“I reflect tonight on the hundreds of patients that I cared for that did not win their battle with cancer over the years, that remain close to my heart,” he said. “This battle took a personal toll on me, and I lost my way several times. But their loss and my failures informed my life and gave me profound insights into resiliency, grace, humility, kindness, dignity and they inspire me today to continue to grow to be a better doctor and more importantly, a better human being.”
A live auction raised thousands of dollars for the Institute, and it was announced that Las Vegas casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson had personally donated $100,000, which was then matched by guests who donated $1,000 each.
The auxiliary gala alone has raised more than $19 million during its three-decade existence.
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Jamie Lee Curtis