NAPA VALLEY, CA, AUGUST 6, 2018 – The V Foundation for Cancer Research, a top-rated cancer research charity, raised a record-breaking $18 million at its 20th annual Wine Celebration in Napa Valley, bringing the total amount raised in 20 years to more than $100 million. The event, held August 2-5, raised nearly $2 million for breast cancer research and over $16 million in fund-a-need donations to support the V Foundation’s endowment fund.
Funds raised at past events have enabled the V Foundation to provide over 600 cancer research grants nationwide to date. Bay Area recipients include the Martin-O’Neil Cancer Center at St. Helena Hospital, Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa, Stanford University School of Medicine and UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Twenty-five years ago, when the V Foundation was established, the prognosis for those diagnosed with cancer was not as optimistic as today. Because of research, including that funded by the V Foundation, we have earlier diagnoses, a better understanding of what causes some cancers, more positive prognoses of many cancers and targeted therapies designed to kill the disease while preserving a patient’s overall health.
In celebration of 20 years of the Wine Celebration, this year’s gala dinner at Nickel & Nickel winery featured five previous hosts, dubbed “Five for Fighting”: Mike “Coach K” Krzyzewski, Duke University men’s basketball head coach and V Foundation board member; Robin Roberts, Emmy-winning co-host of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” two-time cancer survivor, winner of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award and V Foundation board member; Scott Hamilton, figure skating world champion, Olympic gold medalist and cancer survivor; Joe Theismann, Super Bowl champion and MVP, sports commentator and restaurateur; and Lou Holtz, legendary football coach, retired analyst for ESPN, best-selling author and motivational speaking legend.
“You develop a team to achieve what one person cannot accomplish alone,” stated Coach K, host of the event for the 12th time. “Teamwork is the beauty of our sport, where you have five acting as one.”
“We have another fab five,” announced Coach K, and invited to the stage Gus and Linda Doppes, Evan and Cindy Goldberg, and Paul “Dino” Dinovitz, on behalf of Hearst Foundations, who each pledged $1 million in honor of the five event hosts. Kevin Martinez of ESPN, a founding partner of the V Foundation, also made a pledge of $250,000 in honor of the five hosts and five individuals involved in the launch of the V Foundation 25 year ago: Jim Allegro, George Bodenheimer, Steve Bornstein, Rosa Gatti and Geoff Mason.
The theme for this year’s gala event, “Time is Precious,” was taken from the late North Carolina State University men’s basketball coach and ESPN commentator Jim Valvano’s speech at the inaugural ESPY awards in 1993: “Time is very precious to me. I don’t know how much I have left, and I have some things I would like to say. Hopefully, at the end, I will have said something that will be important to other people, too.”
Sadly, The V Foundation Wine Celebration lost two friends this year, Napa Valley’s Koerner Rombauer, the V Foundation’s Vintner Grant Honoree in 2001 and a generous donor to the V Foundation Endowment, and Leslie Rudd, a 2005 Vintner Grant honoree.
“For two-and-a-half decades we have all become a part of that special community that bravely fights cancer, and one that truly believes that research holds the answer,” said George Bodenheimer, retired executive chairman of ESPN and chair of the V Foundation’s Not a Moment to Lose campaign. “And we call that family the V Foundation. From the feeling so evident throughout this weekend and present, you can feel it here tonight. You are a big part of that family. And we know that together, we will never give up until we have cured cancer.”
“Since 1999, the V Wine Celebration has been a source of inspiration and generosity,” said Wine Celebration Chairwoman Julie Allegro. “I am incredibly humbled and proud to be part of a team that has raised more than $100 million towards our goal of victory over cancer.”
“Remarkable doesn’t even describe this year’s V Foundation Wine Celebration,” said Susan Braun, CEO of the V Foundation. “Once again, our hosts have set the stage for generosity, and the guests stepped up. This momentum propels us forward, ever closer to our goal of declaring Victory over Cancer®!”
“It was fantastic to be back in beautiful Napa Valley, hosting another Wine Celebration,” said Theismann. “The energy there was incredible, and the commitment to stopping cancer was as strong as ever. What an honor it was to be part of a special evening with co-hosts from past celebrations.”
Nickel & Nickel has hosted the Wine Celebration’s main event since 2005. Coach K paid a surprise tribute to Beth Nickel, winery owner, who lost her husband Gil Nickel to an aggressive form of melanoma in 2003. “You have to have great players on your team,” said Coach K. “Fifteen years ago, we lost a great player, it was Gil Nickel.” Just three months before his death, Gil Nickel made his final public appearance at The V Wine Celebration. “We are just one miracle away from having everything just right in our fight against cancer,” Nickel said. A 3-liter bottle of Nickel & Nickel wine with those words etched on the bottle was placed on every table in the room and guests were invited to bid on them, generating $400,000 in bids.
At one point in the evening, Coach K invited all the “cancer winners” in the room to stand.
“We’re always trying to find a way to win. And there are a bunch of winners in the audience I’d like to recognize, and these are all winners who’ve been cured of cancers. Cancer winners,” he said. He then invited those who are currently fighting cancer to stand because, “It’s just a matter of time before you win too.” The waitstaff handed a small pouch to each of the 100 plus individuals standing. “We have something for you, because winners should get something.
Robin Roberts interjected and suggested the “thrivers” give the pearls to their caregivers. “Scott (Hamilton) and I can appreciate all the thrivers we have here but…” and she recognized her own partner and caregiver, Amber, and 13 of her closest friends for their care. The pink pearls in the pouches were courtesy of Stephen Silver Fine Jewelry, which has raised over $200,000 in the past three years in the fight against cancer with its Pearls of Hope campaign.
Roberts said, “I like to call it thriving. It’s wonderful that so many of us have survived, but it’s about thriving, right my friends? I’m the class of 2007 and class of 2012—those are the two times I was diagnosed. I didn’t know how much I was going to share of my journey and it was my dear mama who said ‘Make your mess your message.’”
Another cancer survivor and member of the “Fighting Five,” Scott Hamilton, shared the story about his mother’s cancer diagnosis when he was just a child and what she taught him about what life means and what it can be when somebody is suffering. She found humor in her experience, and when Hamilton was diagnosed 20 years later, nobody was allowed to visit unless they made him laugh. Like Jimmy V’s message, he encouraged the audience: “Don’t let a day go by without finding a way to laugh.”
A high point of the evening was the live auction featuring auctioneer John Curley, with assistance from Tony Award-winner Christian Hoff. They led the spirited bidding—which included singing and dancing—of the fund-a-need and 32 auction packages, including an array of exclusive VIP experiences and rare lots of wine. Guests were so eager to bid they were raising their paddles before Curley even announced the opening bid amount.
Highlights from the auction included a 2011 limited edition Neiman Marcus Convertible Chevrolet Camaro, one of only 100 made, packaged with a luxurious weekend at the Davis Estate’s guest house; a Harbison 20-year vertical of wine, including a 9-liter from their first harvest that produced only a single barrel; a Harlan 15-year vertical of wine, packaged with a dinner at Harlan Estate and a dinner and luxury accommodations at Meadowood Napa Valley which went for $100,000; and a dinner party by Ayesha Curry and Michael Mina, co-owners of International Smoke, paired with wines at Gemstone Vineyard, which generated $100,000 when the auction lot was doubled. NBA Hall of Famer, Spurs legend, ESPN Sports Humanitarian Award recipient, and new V Foundation board member David Robinson joined the others on the stage to pump up excitement for auction lot #16: Cooking with the Admiral, a San Antonio culinary experience with Robinson, himself. His lot drew the high bid, raising $240,000 after it was doubled.
A concert performance by Fitz and the Tantrums, presented by JaM Cellars, and an after-party at the Hotel Villagio followed the live auction.
The weekend’s activities kicked off August 2, with a Hall of Fame luncheon at Harbison Estate hosted by Joe and Pat Harbison and sponsored by ESPN. Several intimate winery dinners followed that evening at Sinegal Estate Winery, hosted by proprietors David and Shelley Sinegal; Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery, hosted by proprietor Beth Novak Milliken; and Trefethen Family Vineyards, hosted by proprietors John and Janet Trefethen. Additionally, Davis Estates proprietors Mike and Sandy Davis hosted members of the V Foundation Giving Club at the Humanitarian and Founders Dinner. Some guests attended a special celebrity dinner hosted by Vintner Ambassador Suzanne Pride Bryan and Stuart Bryan in the Caves of Pride Mountain Vineyards, which was the top auction lot in last year’s V Foundation Wine Celebration.
On August 3, members of the Giving Club attended the Presidents Club & Vintner Grant Honoree Luncheon, sponsored by ESPN and Bentley Motors, hosted at Far Niente Winery by proprietor Beth Nickel.
The 2018 Vintner Grant honorees were recognized for their continued support of the V Foundation with a grant awarded in their collective names supporting breast cancer research. The honorees were breast cancer survivors Lauren Ackerman, Karen Aldoroty, Suzanne Pride Bryan, Gina Gallo and Robin Lail, and Beth Novak Milliken, in memory of Mary Weber Novak.
Friday evening’s popular “Rock The V” party at The Pavilion at The Vintage Estates in Yountville celebrated the All-Stars of Cancer research and featured offerings from Napa Valley’s renowned restaurateurs and preeminent vintners, as well as a “Five for Fighting” barrel auction where guests had the opportunity to bid on one-of-a-kind cases of wine in honor of the year’s five hosts. Wines included AldenAlli in honor of Coach K, Pride Mountain Vineyards in honor of Roberts, Fort Ross Vineyard & Winery in honor of Hamilton, O’Brien Estate in honor of Holtz, and Williams Selyem in honor of Theismann. Guests enjoyed the first “V Wine Celebration All-Star Band” featuring Christian Hoff with special guests Michael Tiernan, Jonny Tarr and friends.
The V Foundation’s partners were recognized at the Rock the V Party. Constellation Brands has been a partner since 2010 and a champion in fundraising for cancer research, raising $13 million in direct financial support and sponsorships of V events, plus additional media and advertising to raise awareness for cancer research. Stephen Silver Fine Jewelry was acknowledged for its third year as a sponsor of the Wine Celebration, and vintners Michele and John Anthony Truchard, founders of JaM Cellars, joined the team as presenting sponsors this year, helping to support the V Foundation and its goal to achieve victory over cancer.
On August 4, the V Foundation presented “Answer for Cancer,” a free public cancer research symposium. Preeminent physicians and research scientists from around the nation presented advances and discoveries in clinical applications, new diagnostics and alternative treatments for cancer in a two-hour session led by Dr. Robert Bast Jr., University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and head of the V Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Committee. The session included a Q&A segment where attendees in the standing-room only crowd of several hundred posed questions to guest speakers, including Dr. William Nelson, The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins; Dr. Nancy Davidson, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance; and Dr. Katherine K. Matthay, UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Recognized from the audience was one of Dr. Matthay’s former patients, Jay Ferrick. Diagnosed with stage IV cancer at age five, Ferrick was treated at UCSF by Dr. Matthay as part of her work on neuroblastoma research. Dr. Matthay was the recipient of V Foundation’s Vintner Grant in 2001. The honored vintners that year were Dick and Ann Grace, who designated the grant to her research area.
Following the symposium, the Super Silent Auction & Marketplace was held at Groezinger Estate, where guests enjoyed wine and cuisine from some of the area’s top wineries and chefs while bidding on rare silent auction lots.
The Wine Celebration, the V Foundation’s signature fundraising event, brings attendees from all over the country to Napa Valley for a gala weekend of events and activities with a serious underlying purpose—to benefit the V Foundation’s efforts to support significant cancer research at major institutions and research centers nationwide. Next year’s celebration will take place August 1-4, 2019.