By Jill Beckel
What happens when you mix bling and bingo? Blingo is born! Everyone wanted to be part of the blinged out action at The Rittenhouse Hotel this past Saturday for the second annual Blingo to Cure Duchenne event. The crowd was treated to a fun and exciting atmosphere along with delicious food, drinks and live auction packages. Both the hotel’s décor and guests were blinged out to make a difference for hundreds of thousands of boys suffering from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.
Duchenne is a progressive muscle-wasting disease that impacts 1 in every 3,500 boys. Boys are usually diagnosed by age 5, in a wheelchair by 12, and most don’t survive their mid-20’s. Research funded by CureDuchenne, a Duchenne charity, is providing real hope, and hopefully real treatments soon, to improve and save lives of these young boys.
DJ Lushlife kept the party going all night with high-energy beats. Guests mingled during the reception and enjoyed cocktails and hors d’oeuvres including vegetable spring rolls and lamb kabobs. Many also snapped a few selfies and group pics at the “blinged-out” photo booth area.
Dinner in the ballroom included a fresh pasta station, assorted breads, cheeses and fruits followed by mini desserts, coffee and tea. The host for the night was Marisa Magnatta of the WMMR Preston & Steve radio show. Guests enjoyed four rounds of blingo competing for “blinged-out” prizes such as Phillies tickets, art museum tickets and more. The Philadelphia celebrity bingo callers made the night memorable and fun. They included meteorologist and broadcast sensation John Bolaris, comedian Joe Conklin, former Eagles quarterback A. J. Feeley, Former Governor Ed Rendell and CBS 3 & the CW Philly’s health reporter Stephanie Stahl.
The real reason for the night was displayed by an inspiring family’s speech. Sonal and Manu Gambhir, event chairs of the event, took the stage to tell the story of their son Yuva’s experience with Duchenne. Yuva, 13, was diagnosed with Duchenne in 2005 and is now confined to a wheelchair as a result of this terrible disease. Yuva described himself as a regular kid who enjoys playing chess and said that while Duchenne may affect his body, it did not have him or his mind. He ended his speech by encouraging the crowd to help him “Checkmate Duchenne,” which resulted in a standing ovation.
Debra Miller, the founder of CureDuchenne, then took the stage. CureDuchenne was founded by her and her husband Paul Miller in 2003 after their son was diagnosed with Duchenne. CureDuchenne is making progress every day with new drug trials and therapies. Additional clinical trials will be starting soon. Debra’s wish is that in the future, no boy will have to suffer from Duchenne like her family has.
Dr. Mike Kelly, the CureDuchenne Scientific Advisor, was next to take the stage and spoke of new promising drug applications for Duchenne that are pending approval.
A very touching video was then played for the audience featuring families that had sons living with the disease and a few who had lost their sons already. Duchenne knows no social or ethnic boundaries and affects boys all across the world.
A live pledge raised over $60,000 for the cause and was followed by a live auction. Prizes included Taylor Swift VIP concert tickets, Philadelphia Eagles home opener pre-game sideline experience, Ladies Night diamonds and dinner stay-cation, a one week stay at a private St. Lucia Caribbean estate for up to six people, a luxury African safari for two people and a 94 WIP Sports Radio on set experience for two people and a Connor Barwin autographed Pro Bowl jersey and football.
Two doctors from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), the evening’s honoree, ended the night’s program with a few words. Brenda Banwell, MD, chief of the Division of Neurology and John Brandsema, MD, a pediatric neurologist, accepted the honor on behalf of CHOP. They are continuing to research neuromuscular diseases, including Duchenne, and finding ways to improve outcomes for children with the disorders.
With these promising financial and medical strides, we can hope that our future will include a cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.