Great causes & special events: John Wayne’s legacy, Teen Line volunteers

John Wayne’s legacy fights cancer at “Cowboys & Legends” Odyssey Ball

John Wayne said some things that still ring true. The Duke, an iconic movie star with the tough cowboy image, had a knack for quotes that packed a lot of wisdom, such as: “Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.” “Tomorrow hopes we have learned something from yesterday.” And (my favorite) “Life is tough, but it’s tougher when you’re stupid.”

Patrick Wayne, Ruth Weil, Dr. Mark Faries, Anita Swift (photo by Vince Bucci)

Supporting the John Wayne Cancer Institute, Patrick Wayne, Ruth Weil, Dr. Mark Faries, Anita Swift (photo by Vince Bucci)

The Duke’s granddaughter Anita Swift said, “My grandfather was not a man of many words. He chose his words carefully. Like his fists, his wisdom packed a punch. He used to say, ‘I don’t go looking for a fight, but I don’t believe in shrinking from anything. I’m a guy who meets adversities head on.’ That perfectly describes everyone at the John Wayne Cancer Institute for the past 35 years.”

Swift is president of the John Wayne Cancer Institute Auxiliary, which recently held its fundraising gala, the 31st annual Odyssey Ball. It was an elegant evening at the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills, and western wear and cowboy hats were worn proudly among the tuxedos and evening gowns in the crowd of supporters.

The theme was “Cowboys and Legends,” and the event’s two honorees certainly can stand tall next to the Institute’s John Wayne logo displaying true grit in their fields. Internationally recognized surgical oncologist Mark B. Faries, MD, was honored with the “The Duke” special service award. And a philanthropist of legendary status at JWCI, Ruth Weil received the inaugural Dr. Donald L. Morton Legend Award.

Kaj Goldberg (photo by Margie Barron)

Kaj Goldberg (photo by Margie Barron)

Although he admitted he isn’t much of a cowboy, KTLA-TV news anchor Kaj Goldberg hosted and declared that “cowboys were the first superheroes, and one clearly stood out among them—John Wayne. The Duke showed his heroism notably in his fight with cancer. He was the first celebrity to bring such a personal fight onto the world stage. His heroism drives the outstanding work being done in his name at the John Wayne Cancer Institute.”

Working hard to further The Duke’s legacy, Swift called the JWCI Auxiliary board “my posse,” and she gave credit to to the event co-chairs Martha Harper, Colleen Pennell, Elizabeth Rawjee and Jessica Royer. It is impressive to note that the “cowgirls of the Auxiliary” have raised more than $19 million for the Institute.

Anita spoke about the recent loss of the organization’s first “True Grit” Humanitarian Award recipient Nancy Reagan, who she said, spoke of her affection for “her dear friend John Wayne” and of her dedication of stem cell research. “It was her combination of passion, heart and well, ‘true grit’ that made her the perfect premier honoree. We’ll all miss her.”

Swift said the passing of John Wayne in 1979 was the catalyst for the formation of the John Wayne Cancer Institute with the Wayne family continuing his fight. Patrick Wayne, son of the iconic actor and chairman of the JWCI, said, “While cancer hasn’t been fully vanquished, we’ve gotten in some punches worthy of John Wayne. Thanks to the best physicians, the most innovative scientists and researchers, the Institute will continue to keep hitting cancer until, once and for all, cancer is finished.”

Dr. Anton Bilchik, Ruth Weil (photo by Margie Barron)

Dr. Anton Bilchik, Ruth Weil (photo by Margie Barron)

The event raised more than $750,000 to benefit the John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center including a $100,000 donation from Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson. Plus, Ruth Weil announced a $1.5 million gift to endow the Ruth and Martin H. Weil Surgical Oncology Fellow at the Institute.

Dr. Steven J. O’Day, director of clinical research at the JWCI, celebrated the work of honoree Dr. Mark B. Faries. Dr. Anton J. Bilchik, chief of medicine at the JWCI, presented “The Duke” award to Dr. Faries.

Donald Morton, Jr. and Danielle Morton, son and daughter of the late Dr. Donald L. Morton, presented the inaugural “Dr. Donald L. Morton Legend Award” to Auxiliary board member and hospital volunteer Ruth Weil. Ruth was Dr. Morton’s friend and early supporter, when Dr. Morton founded the John Wayne Cancer Institute in tandem with the Wayne family.

The event’s “Cowboys and Legends” themed spilled over to the after-party, which featured boot-scootin’ country music from the Morgan Leigh Band. High energy filled the ballroom as every buckaroo let loose dancing to “Save A Horse, Ride A Cowboy” and other fun tunes.


TEEN LINE has Food For Thought Luncheon honoring teen volunteers

Teen Hero honoree Sarah Cohen, TEEN LINE founder & honoree Dr. Elaine Leader, emcee Sheryl Lee Ralph and Teen Hero honoree Sabrina Bell (Photo by Vince Bucci)

Teen Hero honoree Sarah Cohen, TEEN LINE founder & honoree Dr. Elaine Leader, emcee Sheryl Lee Ralph and Teen Hero honoree Sabrina Bell (Photo by Vince Bucci)

TEEN LINE, the ground-breaking teen-to-teen support hotline, honored founder Elaine Leader, PhD, with the Above and Beyond Award at the 35th Anniversary Annual Food for Thought Luncheon at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills.

The event was hosted by award-winning actress-singer Sheryl Lee Ralph and put the spotlight on Dr. Elaine Leader and the more than 35 years she has dedicated her life to helping vulnerable young people. Dr. Leader founded the teen-to-teen hotline in 1980, and served as Executive Director until May 2015.

Also honored at the luncheon: The Hekmat Family received the Distinguished Family Service Award; the Hekmat triplets – Ariela, Chloe and Justin volunteer as TEEN LINE Listeners. The Henson and Otis Family were honored with the Humanitarian Award.  In addition, 11 of TEEN LINE’s 120 teen volunteers were recognized. Visit #

Margie Barron has written for a wide variety of outlets including Gannett newspapers, Nickelodeon, Tiger Beat and 16 Magazine, Fresh!, Senior Life, Production Update, airline magazines, etc. Margie is also proud to have been half of the husband & wife writing team Frank & Margie Barron, who had written together for various entertainment and travel publications for more than 38 years.