Dana Walden and Harry Connick Jr. Champion JDRF Imagine Gala

JDRF's Annual Imagine Gala 2019 - Getty - H 2019
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"We just have to keep moving towards a cure," Walden told The Hollywood Reporter of why she was a supporter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation on Saturday night held its annual Imagine Gala at the Beverly Hilton, with Dana Walden, Harry Connick Jr. and Frank Buckley in attendance. The event raises money in support of research and treatment programs for type 1 diabetes, a disease that afflicts over one million Americans and as of yet has no cure.

Walden was there to support her sister Robyn, who was being honored at the gala, and the Disney exec shared with THR why this struggle to find a cure was so important to her.

“I’m really happy to be here tonight because my sister Robyn Sidoti and her husband Marc are the honorees for tonight," she said. "They’ve been fundraising for JDRF for a long time. Their daughter Juliet was diagnosed about five years ago with juvenile diabetes, so it's very personal to my family and it means a lot that people show up to this event and are so generous.”

The evening began with a cocktail reception where attendees sipped wine, champagne and martinis, while enjoying tray-passed appetizers such as coconut shrimp and tuna cones. Guests also had the opportunity to participate in a silent auction that featured items such as Los Angeles Dodgers tickets, passes to the Hollywood Bowl and an autographed jersey of NFL great Tom Brady. 

The event was hosted by KTLA news anchor Frank Buckley, who shared that his own son recently graduated from USC, despite struggling with type 1 diabetes. 

Following a dinner of chicken breast and mushroom risotto, there was a spirited live auction whose first item for sale was a pair of maltipoo rescue puppies. Other items on offer included tickets and flights to the World Series, Super Bowl and NBA Championship games and a four-night vacation at the Four Seasons Maui. 

Speaking to the audience, Connick shared how much he had learned from talking with children at the gala who were suffering from juvenile diabetes. 

“It’s overwhelming to think how heroic y’all are. It’s really impressive," he said. "These children are some of the most beautiful and bright children ever. They’re incredible. One young woman informed me that at 17 years old she’s in her third year of college. I mean, I graduated summa cum later," he joked. "I really didn’t do so well.”

There was also a live donation portion of the evening, where guests could donate anywhere from $100 to $25,000 dollars to diabetes research, and one man even stood up to donate $100,000.

The Sidoti family then took to the stage to receive their honor and to speak about their own struggle with type 1 diabetes and what the support of the JDRF meant to them.

Robyn Sidoti told the audience, “I’m just a mom. A mom who will do whatever it takes to make sure that my daughter has a successful future. To look down at all of your beautiful faces, some of you I know, some of you I don’t know, but at this moment, you all mean everything to me. This is what a cure looks like.”

Walden echoed her sister's sentiments to THR: “For someone like my niece, who’s going to deal with this disease probably for her entire life, there are breakthroughs happening that are going to make it so much different for her than people who were diagnosed five years, a decade ago. We just have to keep moving towards a cure.”

The night concluded with a rousing performance by Connick and his jazz ensemble. After performing his first song, he called all of the children with juvenile diabetes in the audience up onto the stage, where together they sang “You Are My Sunshine” to the audience.