11th Annual St. Jude’s Benefit ~ 2005

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A Record $250,000 Raised!



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The 11th Annual Daytime Television Salutes St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Benefit was held Friday, October 14th at the Marriott Marquis in New York.  Outside, it may have been a starless, rainy night in Midtown, but the stars were bedazzling in the 6th floor ballroom.  Over 70 daytime actors braved the storm and delighted the more than 700 to 800 fans who were in attendance by signing autographs and posing for photos.  Before I let you know who was there and what they wore, let me tell you how this all started.

St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital is internationally recognized for its pioneering work in finding cures and saving children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases since opening in 1962.  It is the only pediatric cancer research center where families NEVER pay for treatments that are not covered by insurance.  St. Jude’s is primarily supported by public contributions and various fund raising events like the “Daytime TV Salutes St. Jude Benefit.” 

This is Martha Byrne’s (Lily, ATWT) 11th year as the event’s chairperson.  If I were to write Byrne’s mission statement, it would be as follows: “When I came back to As The World Turns in 1993, I made a vow to myself that I would do everything I could to raise as much money as I possibly could for the hospital.”  And while this is my 10th year attending this gala, I can say that the party just gets bigger and better every year.  Byrne and her family work arduously all year long to insure that the fans get to be with and feel like stars.

I am not going to bore you with the all the details about how this event comes to fruition, but I want you to know about the activities that are performed by volunteers who give their all to make this event come to life.  There is the ‘goodie bag’ assembling that happens on Thursday night.  There is the putting together and displaying of the Silent Auction items.  Throughout the year, stars from daytime and primetime shows along with members of the theatre, sports, and fashion communities, send collectible items to the NY St. Jude's office for the Silent Auction. There were signed scripts from the casts of Desperate Housewives, House, and the OC along with rare hard-bound scripts from all the daytime shows.  My favorite items were the New York Yankees baseball bat personally autographed by Derek Jeter, and an exquisite doll house.  In addition, there was a beautiful Fender guitar that was going to be autographed by Adrianne Leon, Brooke Lynn (GH).  But in order to have a successful Silent Auction, the items need to be artistically placed.  That would not happen without the hard work of the selfless volunteers and members of the St. Jude’s staff.  Thanks so much.  You made the evening a huge success.

Yes, the 11th Annual Daytime Television Salutes St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Benefit was a smashing success; over $250,000 was raised to insure that St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital continues to help the children.  That’s the real reason that the stars came out on October 14.

I have been fortunate to meet and fall in love with one of the St. Jude's patients.  His name is Cody and he is living with osteogenesis imperfecta (OI).  OI is a genetic disorder resulting in the flawed formation and growth of bones.  In June 1997, Cody became the fourth patient to receive a bone marrow transplant for OI.  Cody is doing so much better.  Before treatment, Cody sustained about three bone fractures a month but now he can go for six months or more without breaking a bone.  Cody always has a smile on his face and he loves attending the benefit.  He makes this event real for me and just knowing that our contributions improve the quality of his life makes me very proud to be a St. Jude Volunteer.

The event has several happening areas.  The party starts with a Pre-Event.  This is a special party and is limited to 100 guests.  Let me tell you, these attendees are extended the VIP treatment.  There were waiters serving hors d’oeuvres, open bar featuring Grey Goose vodka, live music and of course, the opportunity to hobnob with the stars.  Matthew Ashford (Jack, DOOL), returned this year and told us he was delighted to be back.  So many of the fans asked him if Jack would die and he assured him that he would not.  Bold and the Beautiful cast member, Drew Tyler Bell (Thomas, B&B), never stopped smiling.  He posed for photos endlessly and enjoyed every minute.  There were two women from the Washington DC area that caught his eye and I made sure they had an endless memory by taking their photo.  They both blushed from the experience.  I also got the chance to photograph Terri Columbino (Katie, ATWT), with two fans from North Carolina, Kathy and her mom, Pauline. 

There was a mini Days reunion of Stephen Nichols (ex Patch), Billy Warlock (Frankie), and Drake Hogestyn (John).  Seeing them together brought back memories of the Patch and Kayla storyline, along with wondering who Jennifer will decide to be with, Frankie or Jack? 

The Pre-Event attendees were treated to performances by Martha Byrne (Lily, ATWT), Michael Park (Jack, ATWT) and Jennifer Ferrin (Jennifer, ATWT).  Their performances were phenomenal and this was just the first course.

While the Pre-Event was concluding, the action switched to the Red Carpet.  This is the first year that the 11th Annual Daytime Television Salutes St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Benefit held court to a larger group of media.  Besides Soapdom, there were reporters and photographers from all the Entertainment magazines.  Each actor was escorted to the Red Carpet.  I was assisting security at the Actor Check-In area so I was fortunate enough to snap a few shots from the Red Carpet.  While people like Tamara Tunie (Jessica, ATWT), and Catherine Hickland (Lindsay, OLTL), are Red Carpet veterans, there were the new generation of actors, Jennifer Landon (Gwen, ATWT), and Jesse Soffer (Will, ATWT) that were accompanied by Jennifer Ferrin, (Jennifer, ATWT). 

While standing at my post assisting New York’s finest, I was taken back by the arrival of Nancy St. Alban (Michelle, GL) with Michael O’Leary (Rick, GL).  For a minute, I thought that they were really brother and sister.  St. Alban looked awesome and beamed when I asked her about her babies.

I think the funniest Red Carpet moment was with John Paul Lavoisier (Rex, OLTL).  He stopped by to say “hi” and said that he really wasn’t planning on doing the Red Carpet thing; but as soon as he saw the lights, the ham came out!  He was dressed in a raincoat, t-shirt and flannel pants and he did enjoy his opportunity in the limelight!  I don’t think I’ve ever seen flannel pants so displayed on the Red Carpet. Way to go John.

Moving on from the Red Carpet to the main ballroom, everyone in attendance was treated to food abondanza and live entertainment provided by the New Jersey-based band, the Party Dolls, as well as featured performances by Martha Byrne (Lily, ATWT), Jacob Young (JR, AMC), Tamara Tunie, (Jessica, ATWT), and Ilene Kristen, (Roxy, OLTL) just to name a few.  Kim Zimmer (Reva, GL), performs every year, but this year was really special as her son, Jake Weary (Luke, ATWT) accompanied her on guitar.  Jennifer Ferrin (Jennifer, ATWT) performed Olivia Newton John’s Hopelessly Devoted to You and she rocked the house.  Colleen Pinter (Barbara, ATWT) performed a song from Hello Dolly along with a few of her castmates.  While I may have been stuck out in the hallway during her performance, I did get to see her in rehearsal and she was incredible. 

This year Byrne had the pleasure of featuring a new section in the live auction; auctioning a ‘Dance with a Soap Star.’  She assembled as many fan favorites as she could for this item which resulted in a very ‘LIVE’ auction.  Mark Collier (Mike, ATWT), was the first dance partner to be placed on the auction block and a very lucky fan got the chance to dance with Collier for $700.  Even the actors were participating in this event.  Chishelle Strause (Amanda, AMC), was waiting to bid on Zach Roerig (Casey, ATWT), but had to opt out since the bids were getting too high.  We both agreed that he is a major hottie.

Amelia Marshall (Liz, Passions), and I walked around the ballroom just watching who the crowd pleasers were, you know, the ones with the entourages.  We both marveled at how graciously Tom Pelphrey (Jonathan, GL) posed for photos and signed countless autographs.  This is one actor who is destined for primetime and the silver screen.  It’s almost like he’s been here before.  Maybe Shirley McClain could help us to see who he was in his past lives.  Another crowd pleaser was Roger Howarth (Paul, ATWT).  Ever the press-shy actor, Howarth by-passed the Red Carpet to spend more time with the fans.

While the traditional closing of the 11th Annual Daytime Television Salutes St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Benefit is Michael Park (Jack, ATWT), performing Copa Cabana, I want to leave you with a quote that summed up how I felt about a particular fantastic encounter...

As I polled fans throughout the weekend about who was their favorite star encounter, I was told time and time again, Drake Hogestyn (John, DOOL).  “When you were talking to Drake and having your photo taken with him, did you feel like you were the only woman in the room?” One woman answered; “Not the room honey, the universe!”  Now I ask you, what tops that?

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