The power of community – Stories from the SIH Foundation Dinner Gala

May 3rd, 2013

We are so pr

oud of you, Southern Illinois! Your community spirit and overwhelming generosity mean the world to us and will go a long way in making Southern Illinois Healthcare’s new Cancer Center a reality.

On Friday, April 12, 2013, more than 650 of you came together to attend the SIH Foundation Dinner Gala. It was a remarkable event that ended up entertaining, inspiring and spurring guests towards positive action.

Decked out in formal cocktail attire, gala attendees dazzled the eye as they made a grand entrance at the SIUC Student Center Ballrooms. The evening commenced with a cocktail reception with hors d’oeuvres, a silent auction and live music by King Juba.

As guests started dining formally, master of ceremonies, Steve Falat introduced Rex Budde, SIH CEO and president. Budde said he was excited to see this level of support in the community. In a moving speech, he talked about his family’s personal battles with cancer and the devastating impact of watching people he cared for deeply, suffer and die.

“We have to do better. We must do better. And we can do better,” he said stressing the need for a comprehensive facility dedicated to providing high quality, cancer-related services in the region.

Budde was followed by Marsha Ryan, M.D., SIH Foundation chair, co-founder of The Breast Center and cancer survivor herself. Ryan thanked all major donors including physicians, staff, board members and volunteers.

It was then time for the live auction.

“We have come here to raise money, not to get a bargain,” announced professional auctioneer, Jessica Doerr-Berger of Doerr Auction Services, before throwing the floor open to bids.

If you’re curious, here’s what each item sold for:
1. Custom designed, pre-engineered outdoor fireplace: $3,700
2. Riviera Maya, Mexico – Mayan Palace Resort beach vacation: $2,900
3. Custom crafted luxurious granite countertop: $3,200
4. Original artwork by Najjar Abdul-Musawwir: $1,000
5. Edisto Island beach vacation: $6,000

Total live auction amount raised for the Hope is Home campaign: $16,800

A video testimonial specially made for the dinner gala, struck a chord with viewers, stressing the urgent need for comprehensive, quality, cancer care close to home.

Then it was time for Jennifer Badiu, administrative director of the SIH Cancer Institute to introduce the star of the evening: keynote speaker, recent cancer survivor and radio show host, Lia Mira-Lerner.

In an emotional speech, Mira-Lerner talked about finding her courage in the midst of going for cancer treatments. With two young children who only wanted to know why she had cancer; Mira-Lerner came up with a creative answer, “Its so other parents can use me as an example.”

She counted herself lucky to have breast cancer because she had The Breast Center located ten minutes from her home. Otherwise, she said, she would have had to drive hours to and fro for every treatment.

Cancer is personal, she said. It affects every one of us. And it was apparent just how many lives cancer has touched, when more than two dozen cancer survivors in the audience stood up.

Dinner guests were then encouraged to pledge dollars in support of the new cancer center.

The evening concluded with a fun after-party featuring drinks, desserts and dancing to live music.

To date from the event, beyond the $80,000 we have raised an additional $172,000 in pledges and gifts for the Hope Is Home Campaign with more in progress.

None of this would have been possible without you. So thank you, Southern Illinois! Together we will build a dedicated cancer facility for our families, friends and neighbors. Together we have the power to change lives.


Cancer is personal. Dig deep into your pockets and help make this cancer center a reality. Every dollar will make a difference.