Patrick Dempsey Honored by American Cancer Society

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Sherry Lansing and Patrick Dempsey

Guests in attendance were focused on the important work of fighting cancer, but the food also brought the philanthropic crowd together and all of the restaurants that participated donated their food and their time to the event.

Sherry Lansing, Patrick Dempsey, Phil Rosenthal and Harry Lennix were joined by hundreds of guests on the Sony backlot on Sunday evening for the American Cancer Society’s 34th Annual California Spirit Benefit, an event that’s intended to celebrate food and those who are raising money and searching for a cure for cancer. 

The benefit was founded by Lansing, and the former Paramount studio head told The Hollywood Reporter that every year she gains more hope that we will eventually be able to defeat this terrible disease.

"People are living longer with cancer and people are surviving cancer and there are statistics that didn’t exist before — the survival rate for breast cancer is 90 percent, for prostate cancer its 98 percent," Lansing said. "Diseases that used to carry a death sentence, you’re walking around cured or you’re living very long and healthy lives with it. The goal is to make every cancer patient a survivor."

Guests in attendance were focused on the important work of fighting cancer, but the food also brought the philanthropic crowd together and all of the restaurants that participated donated their food and their time to the event.

Chef Antonia Lofaso, whose own father is a two-time cancer survivor, served as the event's host chef. Guests enjoyed small plates from dozens of Los Angeles restaurants including strawberry daiquiris and churros from Dama, lobster tacos from Wolfgang Puck, bites of 40-day-aged steak from Boa and crab cakes and filet mignon from Del Frisco's steakhouse.

Drinks at the event were provided by Golden Road Brewery, as well as Mulholland Gin and Nebula 9 Vodka, among others.

Rosenthal was the benefit’s co-chair alongside Lansing, and he told THR why an event built around food was an effective way to raise money to fight cancer: "It’s a big draw. It works. Food is the great connector and everyone loves it and it’s a great way to connect, socialize, talk about the important things and you’ve got to eat anyway!"

In addition to enjoying the gourmet eats, guests had the opportunity to participate in a silent auction, where they could bid on items ranging from a VIP experience at Jimmy Kimmel Live! to dinner at Spago or a whiskey package from Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co.

Dempsey was the recipient of the American Cancer Society’s Impact Award, in recognition of his work helping those diagnosed with cancer through his Dempsey Centers.

"My mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1997. She had 12 recurrences over the period of her battle and ultimately in 2014 she passed away," he told THR. "It was clearly a profound impact on our family for a very long period of time. It seemed like every two years it was coming back, so we were in and out of hospitals, in and out of treatment constantly."

The actor and producer operate two clinics in his home state of Maine that treat 2,500 patients every year, at no cost to the patient. 

"With the Dempsey Centers, we don’t treat diseases, we treat the person," explained Dempsey. "How do we make their life better, people who have been impacted? And we do that in a way that is no cost to them. And certainly with integrative medicine and things like that, it needs to go hand in hand with conventional treatment in our battle against cancer."

Following the dinner hour, there were speeches from Lansing, Rosenthal and Dempsey, as well as from teenager Caitlin Herron, who detailed her experience as a young cancer survivor.

More funds for the nonprofit organization were raised during a live auction, with guests bidding thousands of dollars on items such as a Dodger Stadium luxury box experience and a trip to Paris to watch the French Open.

Lansing may have raised the most money for any item when she auctioned off a dinner and film screening for 12 at her home theater. Three different guests agreed to pay $11,000 each for the experience.

The evening ended with a live fundraiser that saw guests donate more than $75,000, including $100 from Sidney Walton, who at 100 years old is considered one of the oldest surviving World War II veterans.