Last night, Katie Couric and the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF) brought together some of the biggest names in film, music, television and theater, and fulfilled their commitment to raise $5 million to help create the Jay Monahan Center for Gastrointestinal Health at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Medical College of Cornell University and provide ongoing support to EIF's National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance (NCCRA).
The event was held at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York where leading stars from both Hollywood and Broadway united in this special event performing selections from Leonard Bernstein's "The Songs of WEST SIDE STORY." An extraordinary line-up of talent, all of whom graciously donated their time, participated, including (in order of appearance): Kevin Spacey, Robin Williams, Susan Sarandon, Meryl Streep, Kelsey Grammer, Jimmy Fallon, Chris Kattan, Robert De Niro, Kevin Kline, Josh Groban, Rebecca Luker, Davis Gaines, Bette Midler, Rita Moreno, Chita Rivera, Whoopi Goldberg, Heather Headley, Amy Grant, Vince Gill, Tony Danza, Jesse L. Martin, Federico Castelluccio, Steve Schirripa, Tony Sirico, John Ventimiglia, Paul Stanley , Sylvia Rhyne, Cris Groenendaal, David Damane, Beyonce Knowles, Robert Bartley, Terri Dixon, Erin Malloy, Vanessa A. Jones, Ryan Perry.
Some of the highlights of the evening included Jimmy Fallon and Chris Kattan singing backup to Robert DeNiro and Kevin Kline in "Jets Song;" Bette Midler, Rita Moreno and Chita Rivera performing "America;" Tony Danza, Jesse Martin and surprise guest former Mayor Rudy Giuliani singing "Gee, Officer Krupke" along with "Sopranos" cast members Frederico Castelluccio, Steve Schirripa, Tony Sirico and John Ventimiglia; and Beyonce Knowles belting out "Somewhere."
"I can't say enough about all the talented people who put their time and energy into last night's event...it was a collaboration like no other, and I am still awed at the generosity of all of the participants," said Couric. "Moreover, thanks to our guests and underwriters, we have made huge steps towards making The Jay Monahan Center a reality -- for me, that is what truly made last night so special."
"We are deeply grateful to the amazing lineup of performers who graciously donated their time and talent," said Lisa Paulsen, president and CEO of the EIF. "The entertainment industry's support speaks volumes about how much we all respect Katie's work in combating gastrointestinal cancers."
The event was presented by AETNA, a long time supporter of the NCCRA. The benefit co-chairs were Katie Couric with Bill Cosby, Michael Gould (CEO, Bloomingdale's), Maurice R. Greenberg (Chairman and CEO, AIG), Kevin Huvane (Partner, Creative Artists Agency), Jeffrey R. Immelt (Chairman & CEO, GE), Robert Kaplan (Vice Chairman, Goldman, Sachs Group, Inc.), Jeffrey Katzenberg (co-founder, DreamWorks), The Monahan Family, John W. Rowe, M.D. (Chairman & CEO, Aetna) and Robert C. Wright (Vice Chairman, GE and Chairman & CEO, NBC).
"Aetna and the Aetna Foundation are enormously proud to partner with Katie Couric and the Entertainment Industry Foundation and its National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance, and all the many performers who generously contributed their time and talent to create this important evening of giving," said John W. Rowe, M.D., chairman and CEO of Aetna and a co-chair of the Hollywood Hits Broadway Benefit Committee. "Since Aetna helped found the NCCRA just three years ago, the program has made extraordinary progress in the urgent mission to prevent, detect and cure colon cancer. Last night's event was yet another remarkable accomplishment for NCCRA and EIF - congratulations to The Jay Monahan Center."
Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death for both men and women in the U.S., causing approximately 55,000 deaths a year, but, at the same time, one of the most preventable with early detection. Gastrointestinal (GI) cancers, including those of the colon (large intestine), pancreas, liver, small intestine, esophagus, stomach, and gall bladder, represent a significant portion of ALL cancer cases.
The Jay Monahan Center for Gastrointestinal Health, named in honor of Katie Couric's late husband, will offer a unique model of service for gastrointestinal (GI) cancers. The Monahan Center is the first comprehensive, fully integrated and interdisciplinary program that stresses education and prevention in addition to diagnosis and treatment of GI cancer. The Center's goal is to make dealing with the difficult diagnosis of these cancers much easier for patients and their families. The Jay Monahan Center will be located in the Stich building on the New York Weill Cornell campus of the New York-Presbyterian Hospital. The Center is due to open in early 2004.
Jay Monahan was a respected criminal defense lawyer at Williams & Connolly in Washington, D.C. and at the New York office of Hunton & Williams, before becoming a legal commentator for Fox News and later at MSNBC. He was known for his insightful analyses, razor sharp memory and keen wit. He was passionate about his family, antiques and history, particularly of the Civil War. Jay was working on a book about Abraham Lincoln and the burning of the Shenandoah Valley at the time of his death on January 24, 1998.
The National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance (NCCRA) was co-founded in March 2000 by Katie Couric, Lilly Tartikoff, and the Entertainment Industry Foundation to raise awareness and research dollars in the fight against colon cancer. The NCCRA supports cutting-edge research conducted by leading scientists working on prevention, diagnostic tools, treatment, and, ultimately, a cure. As a result of the attention NCCRA and NBC's "TODAY" show have focused on colorectal cancer, the number of colonoscopy screenings has increased almost 20%. Researchers at the University of Michigan refer to this as "the Couric effect."
The NCCRA is a program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation. EIF represents the collective philanthropy of the entertainment industry, and has distributed hundreds of millions of dollars and, provided countless of volunteer hours, to support charitable initiatives that address some of the most critical issues facing society today.