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A Night of Unity – National Brain Tumor Society’s 2016 Gray Gala

From across the country, individuals impacted by brain tumors came together at Boston, Massachusetts’ Seaport World Trade Center to honor the remarkable achievements of brain tumor advocates, researchers, and volunteers, and to affirm our commitment to the mission that the National Brain Tumor Society (NBTS) shares with this community to find new treatments and an eventual cure for the disease.

The cocktail hour’s entertainment, As The Sparrow, provided the perfect soundtrack as attendees mingled and shared their personal stories while participating in our silent auction. As the time for dinner drew nearer, our guests made their way into the ballroom, where an emotional tribute to those we have lost along the way played as a reminder of those in whose names we continue to fight.

Emily Riemer, an anchor from Boston’s local ABC TV affiliate, WCVB-TV, welcomed everyone to the Gala, inviting them to donate and leave a note for a loved one on our two “Giving Trees.” As the night’s official festivities kicked off, National Brain Tumor Society (NBTS) Board Chairman, Michael Nathanson, gave a warm introduction to our mission and to CEO, David Arons, who reiterated our goal to make brain tumors a chronic, manageable disease by 2025.

Community Leaders Honored

Our community’s motivation, dedication, leadership and support makes our mission possible. For 2016 we honored the volunteers, advocates, and emerging leaders that were the lynchpins of our fundraising and advocacy efforts.

Volunteer of the Year – Steven Branfman


Steven’s dedication to the Boston Brain Tumor Ride, which he both co-chairs and rides with Team Kermit, is immense. Riding in memory of his son, Jared, Steven has remained a steadfast supporter of NBTS, bringing more people to the event while setting fundraising records. While he was unable to attend, his dear friend, and NBTS board member, Michael Corkin, accepted the award on his behalf. We were honored to have him with us.

Advocate of the Year – Matt Hanson


Matt’s years as a State Lead Advocate has been an exemplary display of how families and caregivers can take action and use their personal experiences to affect change. Matt has tirelessly worked to lobby Congress on the issues facing the brain tumor community and has never shied away from an opportunity to do more for the cause.

Emerging Leader of the Year – Tara Mitchell


As an event co-chair, fundraiser, speaker, and survivor, Tara Mitchell has been a force for change since diagnosed with a brain tumor as a senior in high school in 2010. For the past six years, this young woman has continued to live her life while working to raise funds for brain tumor research and inspiring others to do more. As co-chair of the Central New Jersey Brain Tumor Walk, Tara is continuing to blaze a trail for others to follow.

Founder’s Awards

Richard B. Ross Founder’s Award – Suzanne Baker


Suzanne Baker, PhD of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, is the Director of the famed hospital’s Brain Tumor Research Division and Co-Leader of its Neurobiology & Brain Tumor Program. She was honored for her contributions and major discoveries to the field of pediatric neuro-oncology and for her work helping NBTS launch the Defeat Pediatric Brain Tumor Research Collaborative.

Feldman Founder’s Award – Webster K. Cavenee


Webster K. Cavenee, PhD, Director of Strategic Alliances in Central Nervous System (CNS) Cancers at Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, was recognized for his outstanding work in glioma research. His discovery of the first indisputable evidence of genes that suppressed tumor growth changed the way the field understood tumor progression. Dr. Cavenee has also provided tremendous leadership to NBTS’ Defeat GBM Research Collaborative.

Mason’s Memory

Our headlining speaker was Danielle Leach, Senior Director of Advocacy and Government Relations at St. Baldrick’s Foundation, who presented the story of her son, Mason, who had been diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor when he was only three years old. With poise and raw, emotional honesty, she told the audience her son’s story and invited them to also take action on behalf of everyone who has suffered from this diagnosis:

The Fundraising

Still feeling the emotional charge of Danielle’s presentation, the live auction began in earnest, with lively bids for destination vacations throughout the globe, followed by a mission auction where the generosity of our attendees continued. At the end of the night, the Gala had raised $260,000 for research and advocacy.

“National Brain Tumor Society is just that: a society,” CEO David Arons said, “and you are part of that society. We thank you for being a part of the solution as we continue to fight for new treatments.”

> See more photos of the event at our Flickr Page

2016 National Gray Gala

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