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Home Features Fan Tales Martha Byrne's 9th Annual St. Jude's Benefit

Martha Byrne's 9th Annual St. Jude's Benefit

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Stars and fans raise over $200K for kids hospital

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For the past nine years, ATWT’s Martha Byrne has spearheaded one of the most successful fund raisers in soap history.  This year’s event is no exception.  Over $200,000 was raised.

Read on as Soapdom special contributor, Phyllis A. Tremblay, pictured here with Bailey Chase (Chris, ATWT), shares her experience smoozing with the stars and fans as she gave of her time to volunteer at the event.

It’s 8:00 am, Friday, October 9th and the volunteers and St. Jude staff are slowly making their way to the Marriott Marquis Hotel in NYC.  From all the advanced press, this year’s event will be the largest.  But before the event can take place, the room needs to be set up, the silent auction prizes must be artistically displayed, the goodie bags must be put together for the actors and the attendees, and the volunteers must arrive.

This is my 7th year as a St. Jude volunteer and every year my tasks have grown as the event just gets bigger and bigger.  This year I was assigned to work 8:00 - 3:30 for set-up and then back at 4:30 - 9:00 for actor/press check-in.  While it may sound exciting, it really is a lot of work.  It takes an entire year to make this event a success.  I am only focusing on the volunteer duties.  Some of the volunteers have been doing this for nine years.  We had about 30 volunteers this year.  My friends and I comprised seven of the volunteers, four from North Carolina, two from Massachusetts and one from Connecticut.  Other volunteers came from the New York/New Jersey area.  Even the St. Jude staff from the Albany, NY office lent a hand.  The New York Firefighters would also be on hand as our raffle ticket sellers and security assistants.

The Pre-Party 

The St. Jude Children’s Hospital Daytime TV benefit consists of three parts, the Pre-Event, the Main Event and the Entertainment.  The Pre-Event was held in the Sky Lobby area on the 16th floor.  This was by far the most luxurious setting for the Pre-Event.  There was a piano bar, a NYC skyline view, waiters coming by with white wine and hor d’oevres, of course, the actors themselves.  Because the Pre-Event is limited to 52 people the attendees can really get to mingle with the actors. 

I had the opportunity to take a few photos and to introduce some of the fans to new friends.  Pictured at right, Drake Hogestyn, (John Black, DOOL) got a chance to meet some As The World Turns fans, and I’m sure after posing for a few photos with them, he had made some new friends. 

Marie Masters, (Susan, ATWT) was conversing with fans Ellen and Alex from Montreal to her left, along with two other fans from Florida. Other actors who attended the Pre-Event were Greg Watkins, (ex-Evan Walsh, ATWT), Michael Swan (ex-Duncan McKecknie, ATWT, Brad Green, GL), Colleen and Mark Pinter, (Barbara, ATWT, ex-Roger Smythe, AMC), and, of course, Martha Byrne (Lily/Rose ATWT).  Entertainment was provided by Eileen Fulton, Tamara Tunie and Cady McClain (Lisa, Jessica and Rosanna, ATWT) along with several others. 


Duty called and I was only able to stay a few minutes as I was assigned to the actor check-in table which was outside the main ballroom.  While waiting for an elevator in an attempt to return to my post, I got to hug old friends Keith Coulouris, Lesli Kay and Eileen Fulton (ex-David Stenbeck, Molly and Lisa from ATWT).  It made me feel so special when they were as happy to see me, as I was to see them.  Eileen Fulton is just a darling.  I’m sure that everyone who attended the Pre-Event had the time of his or her life.  It was truly elegant.

As 7 PM approached, we knew that the actor/press area was going to be busy.  There were four volunteers ready to receive the actors and the press and I don’t think that we ever dreamed that there would be almost 100 actors from both coasts in attendance this year.  Each actor had to be given a personalized goody bag as well as wristbands and a St Jude pin for VIP access.  We were BUSY.  There wasn’t time to say ‘hi’ to people that I had met in previous years.  The fans were definitely in for a treat this year.  We checked in 35 actors from ATWT, 25 from GL, 12 from AMC, 13 from OLTL and 13 from the West Coast soaps.  (See Celebrity Attendees List)

The most memorable encounter at the actor check in table was when Robin Christopher and husband Matt Crane, (Skye, GH) and (ex-Matt, AW) looked up and saw Anna Stuart (Mary, AMC, ex-Donna AW).  First there was the scream from Anna, then Robin, then Anna again.  How I wished my camera had been ready to shoot their group hug.  It was clear to see that this was truly a family reunion.

The press area had a photo setup right behind our check-in table.  This year the actors were posed in front of a wonderful St. Jude backdrop.  It really added polish.  As one photographer mentioned, it was “Better than the Emmys.”  Thom Christopher and Patricia Elliot who have been friends from their days together on OLTL as Carlo Hesser and Renee Buchanan, posed together.  The ever-lovely Linda Dano came by.  Then there were the resident GL hunks Scott Bailey and Marty West (Sandy and Shayne).  They enjoyed their stay in the photo area and drew a crowd of fans as well. 

Another new face to GL but not to daytime was Stephen Martines (new Tony Santos, GL).  The fans have not forgotten their General Hospital favorite and Stephen was soon to wow the fans with his vocal talents in the main ballroom.  (These are just a few actors that passed our greeting area). 

The Main Event

When my shift was over I was off to the main ballroom to have some fun.  The main event ticket price may cost $135 per person, but it included an open bar until 10:30 that provided beer and wine, carving stations set up throughout the room offering roast beef, ham, chicken and a variety of salads, rice and pasta dishes while entertainment being provided by the Party Dolls along with several daytime favorites. 

By 9 PM, I was hungry but I also wanted to see everyone.  I soon found that seeing everyone was going to be nearly impossible as this was the largest group of actors ever assembled for this event.  I decided to start by seeking out the two firefighters that had provided extra security during the actor check in.  These two men were Kelly Ripa (ex Hayley, AMC; Live with Regis & Kelly; and Faith. Hope and Faith) and Vanessa Marcil (ex Brenda, GH; Sam, Las Vegas) fans but they soon found new loves.  It seemed that no one could refuse them when it came to selling tickets.  Just look at my two firefighters, they are truly precious.

As I was finally able to talk to fans and see how much fun they had, I focused on following the crowds.  I was stopped, however, by Michael Swan, (ex-Duncan McKecknie, ATWT) who was speaking to me in his ‘Duncan’ Scottish accent, “ the lass has a kilt, we need to get this picture.”  I’m not sure if the fan knew Michael before but she sure does now.  Michael was so helpful spotting out photo ops. 

Then I heard a loud gathering, and I had to see who was in the center.  It’s no surprise that it was Ricky Paull Goldin (Gus, GL).  Ricky has always been a fan favorite.  Another favorite was Matthew Ashford (Jack, DOOL).  He was so gracious; he spoke candidly about his current situation on DOOL and about his daughter’s eye cancer.  Matt and his lovely wife Christina (Saffron) later provided the fans with a few songs.  There are not enough superlatives to describe this couple.  It may have been their first St. Jude visit but I’m sure they will come back if their schedules allow.

The fans were fortunate to see so many new faces from AMC, ATWT, GL and OLTL.  I love seeing Peyton List and Jessica Dunphy (Lucy and Alison, ATWT).  When I first met them they were both in high school and they have grown so much.  I got a chance to talk with Jessica about her role as Alison.  She is so thankful to have been given such a great story.  When I asked her about her love interest Chris Hughes (Bailey Chase), she had nothing but superlatives for how caring he is.  She said that their age difference only helped in making her feel safe in their “love scenes.” 

Bailey Chase (Chris, ATWT) was seen later in the evening with Crystal Hunt (Lizzie, GL).  Crystal was attending her first event and was nervous.  Bailey just escorted her throughout the ballroom.  I was so glad to bump into them.  It was at about the time that someone noted that my foot was bleeding.  So of course, I needed to see a doctor.  Well, Bailey Chase may only play one on TV but who cares; I want my doctor to look like Bailey.  He offered me a band-aid but I said that a hug and a photo would make my foot feel better.  Crystal was recruited as our photographer and she provided me with the best cure for a sore ‘anything.”  You can’t help but adore Bailey.

Other faces in the crowd included Lamman Rucker with on screen daughter Joanna Hartshorn (Marshall and Sarah, ATWT), Kim Brockington (Felicia, GL) who was modeling some very exquisite diamond jewelry, and Tracey Melchior (Kelly, OLTL) who was enjoying the entertainment with her adorable son.  I also had a close encounter of the wild and crazy kind with Trevor St. John and Dan Gauthier (Todd and Kevin, OLTL).  After speaking with some of the other volunteers, it became apparent that Trevor and Dan were indeed crowd pleasers.

While I was scurrying though the Marriott Ballroom I was amazed to see how the actors enjoy seeing each other.  While they may work at the same studio, I’m sure that Elizabeth Hendrikson (Maggie, AMC) and Alicia Minshew (Kendall, AMC) rarely get an opportunity to flirt with Bruce Michael Hall (Joey, OLTL).  Aubrey Dollar (soon to be ex- Marina GL) was happily greeted by her cast mates Scott Bailey and Marty West. The young cast members of OLTL really appeared to be friends.

As a longtime fan of ATWT, I was thrilled to see ATWT alumni Tom Wiggin, Greg Watkins and Paul Leyden (ex-Kirk, ex-Evan Walsh, ex-Simon Frasier).  Tom is now in NYC preparing for his Broadway role opposite Farrah Fawcett in Nancy Hasty’s, “Bobbi Boland.” Tom previously appeared on Broadway in the original production of “Grease.” Greg told me that he would be reading for a new Tom Cruise project and was very excited about that.  He said that he also has a few movie ideas that he is developing with friends. 

It was very obvious from his accent that Paul Leyden had just returned from Australia.  He had the chance to do some film work while home in Australia and he was thrilled to visit with his family.  He said that his upcoming roles require him to sound American so he will have his work cut out for him.  When I asked if he would like to return to ATWT, he replied, “Sure, I’d love to come by for a stint.”  From his mouth to the producers’ ears, a Simon return would be FANtastic. 

The Entertainment -- It's Showtime!

For several years the New Jersey based group, The Party Dolls, have provided the musical entertainment.  They specialize in dance music from the 70’s to the present.  They also back up the daytime stars who displayed their singing talents.  Kim Zimmer (Reva, GL), always the crowd pleaser, belted out a powerful rendition of “Mustang Sally.” Matthew Ashford (Jack, DOOL) and his wife Christina sang “Baby it’s Cold Outside.” Christina then wowed the audience with the song “Someone to Watch Over Me.”  Guiding Light’s Marj Dusay (Alex) delighted the audience with “That’s why the Lady is a Tramp.”  That was so unlike Alexandra Spaulding. 

A highlight of the night was Tamara Tunie (Jessica, ATWT) who performed “It’s Raining Men.”  She had everybody up dancing and Lisa Brown (ex-Iva, ATWT) and friends were bringing up lucky men to the stage to strut their stuff.  Michael Park (Jack, ATWT), who has provided the daytime stars finale for the past few years, did not disappoint the fans this year either as they were treated to “Copa Cabana.” 

The Real Reason We Do This!

But when all the partying is over, all the money is counted, the real reason we volunteer, attend and bid on auction items is for kids like Cody Bigos.  Cody has been a St. Jude poster child for the past few years.  He is just adorable.  Winsor Harmon (Thorne, B&B) was so touched by Cody that he mentioned to me that he has an inner need to get more involved.  I wasn’t surprised by his words since I always have Cody in my heart when I sell my raffle tickets.  St. Jude sees about 4,300 patients yearly and their mission is to find cures for children with catastrophic illnesses.  The 9th Annual Daytime TV St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital benefit should bring in close to $200,000.

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