Saving Brain Cells in Las Vegas

It’s my opinion that Parkinson’s organizations could use some more muscle regarding fund raising.  PD fund raising just isn’t ….well, as glamorous as American Heart Association balls, Susan G. Komen triathalons for breast cancer, or Leukemia special events like the climb to the top of Seattle’s tallest skyscraper.

But there is at least one glamorous PD fund raising event.  I first heard about Las Vegas’s  Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in the New York Times – but not in its excellent science section.  Instead, the Ruvo Center was mentioned in what in the old days we called the “Society pages”.  The article was describing the Ruvo’s fund raiser, the “Power of Love Gala”, which raised more than $11 million this April.

Talk about “over the top” – the occasion was to celebrate the 80th birthdays of Quincy Jones and Sir Michael Caine.  (The 2012 gala celebrated Muhammed Ali’s 70th birthday.)  Birthday greetings were sung by none other than Stevie Wonder, and Chaka Khan belted out Michael Caine’s theme song, “Alfie”.

Some 1700 guests attended, including Hollywood A-listers like Amy Poehler, Will Smith, Arsenio Hall, and Whoopi Goldberg.  Catering was done by some local boys like Wolfgang Puck , Thomas Keller, Mario Batali, and Emeril Lagasse.  There was the inevitable charity auction…but with goodies like seven days and six nights on Las Vegas hotelier Steve Wynn’s private yacht, Aquarius, with a staff of 200.  ($650,000 was the winning bid…and then Wynn offered a second trip…so a cool $1.3 million.)

Larry Ruvo in front of Gehry bldg-NYTimes

Larry Ruvo in front of Gehry-designed bldg.
Photo credit: Issac Brekken, NY Times

So how is the money being used?  Well, the Ruvo Center is housed in an $80 million Frank Gehry building.  Larry Ruvo,  who made his fortune in liquor distribution (in what has to be the best liquor market in the country), justified this over-the-top building by saying “Spirits is a packaging and marketing business.  If I built a normal building, nobody in the medical world would have taken me seriously.”  (NY Times)

And should the Ruvo Center be taken seriously?  You bet.   Their major mission is taking care of patients with brain disorders — an important mission in itself.  But they’ve also got the money to fund the clinical trials that are essential to improving symptom management of  brain disorders like PD – and maybe one day curing them.  Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health treats patients with Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and Parkinson’s disease, as well as frontotemporal dementia and multiple sclerosis.  Under their Cleveland Clinic affiliation, the Ruvo Center carries out clinical trials.  There are eight major clinical trials going on now.  Half of them regard Alzheimer’s.  Only one specifically concerns Parkinson’s, but its subject is to  assess the effect of a new drug on the cognition in participants with Parkinson’s disease.  Adding to the toolbox for PD management is always a good thing!

As the research goes on, I’m still waiting for my invitation to the 2014 Power of Love Gala.  I searched all over the Ruvo Center website and couldn’t find out what the gala entrance fee was, but I’m sure “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it”.  I’m glad there are plenty of rich people who can afford the gala, and I’m also glad Larry Ruvo was inspired to build this center after the death of his father from Alzheimer’s.

About Laura Kennedy Gould

Author of "The Magic Trick -- Life with Parkinson's
This entry was posted in Parkinson's People, Parkinson's Research and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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