Over 550 of the most philanthropic members of our community came together over the weekend to celebrate the 12th Annual Diamond Ball – Beyond Tomorrow at the JW Marriott Marquis Miami. The event raised over one million dollars to benefit the children and families cared for at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.
Laurie Jennings, WPLG Local 10 news anchor and proud supporter of Nicklaus Children’s Hospital was in charge of emceeing the event. Jennings kicked off the program by expressing her gratitude towards the organization and the medical staff. She shared the story of her identical twin boys, Luke and Jake, who were born as micro preemies four months early at a local maternity unit and later cared for by the subspecialists at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.
The event continued with Ravneet Chowdhury, Honorary Chair of the event and Chair of Nicklaus Children’s Hospital Foundation’s Board of Directors, who shared many extraordinary achievements including the groundbreaking of the upcoming Fetal Care Center. The Fetal Care Center is a 10-bed special delivery suite devoted to the care of fetal patients with medical needs requiring intervention at birth.
“We’re no longer a hidden gem in South Florida. We are a global destination for parents seeking answers and groundbreaking treatments for their children, and your donations have allowed us to provide the technology, equipment and specialists they need to have the opportunity to live healthier lives,” said Chowdhury.
The theme of the event, Beyond Tomorrow, focused on innovation and set the mood for the induction of African stateswoman Graça Machel into the Ambassador David M. Walters International Pediatric Hall of Fame. Machel, who had toured the hospital the day prior, strongly believes that all children, including those in underserved areas, should have quick and affordable access to healthcare. Induction into the Hall of Fame is the highest honor bestowed by Nicklaus Children's Hospital Foundation and each inductee has demonstrated a passionate commitment to ensure the health and happiness of children worldwide.
“We are honored to have had Graça Machel in attendance this year. Her unparalleled dedication to the overall well-being of children worldwide truly paints a picture of the global initiative our organization believes in,” stated Dr. Narendra Kini, CEO, Nicklaus Children’s Health System.
Guests also heard two compelling stories from some very grateful families. The first one was an orthopedic patient, Layla A’leea Walker, who was diagnosed with early onset scoliosis and underwent surgery to insert magnetically controlled growing rods to properly align her spine. The other, an emotional and moving story of Manchester Isabella, a global patient from Honduras, who is currently receiving life-saving care at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital for an acute lymphoblastic leukemia diagnosis. Her leukemia came back after having almost finished treatment in her hometown. Without any other options in Honduras, Manchester’s mother, Melissa, began researching other alternatives and landed in the care of Dr. De Angulo, Pediatric Hematology-Oncologist at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. Her new hope is a treatment called Kymriah, also known as CAR-T.
Nicklaus Children’s is proud to be one of a few children’s hospitals nationwide to offer Kymriah, a novel immuno-oncology treatment that uses the patient’s own immune system to seek out and destroy cancer cells. This treatment provides the chance of a cure for children struggling after a cancer relapse, and holds promise as the care standard of the future for a wide range of cancers. Kymriah is currently approved for patients up to 25 years of age who have been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and who have experienced a recurrence of the disease following standard treatment.
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is the most common form of pediatric cancer. While the survival rate is high, patients who relapse after treatment have a poor prognosis and Kymriah can be a game changer. Patients with recurrent, or “refractory” leukemia have less than a five percent chance of remission with repetition of prior treatment and may be candidates for stem cell transplantation. With Kymriah, these same patients have a greater than 90 percent chance of remission a month after the infusion.
With emotions running high after listening to Melissa speak about her daughter’s journey, a call to action was made to give generously to the Nicklaus Children’s Hospital Foundation, so that other deserving children like Manchester could receive life-saving treatment.
“This year’s Diamond Ball was a celebration of the incredible work that our doctors and nurses provide our children, and how our community is dedicated to continuing to support such an important mission,” concluded Chowdhury.
This year’s Diamond Ball Chairs were Ravneet and Anand Chowdhury along with Co-Chairs Arti and Ricky Patel as well as Stearns Weaver Miller. The event was made possible thanks to the generous support of JW Marriott Marquis Miami, Delta Air Lines, City National Bank, Robins & Morton, AB&A Advertising, West Coast University, Greenberg Traurig, P.A, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits of Florida, CC Homes, Duty Free Americas, Inc., Polen Capital, CNN Español, Ocean Drive Magazine and Selecta Magazine.