S.L.E. Lupus Foundation turned research ‘upside down’ on Monday, November 19th at their annual gala at the American Museum of Natural History. Arriving guests were greeted with a glass of white wine and were later welcomed by Mayor Bloomberg, the Honorary Dinner Chair, who addressed the crowd noting, “New York has the most lupus laboratories, private sector lupus research produced, opportunities for lupus diagnosis, treatment and care and the most established and active outreach to combat racial disparities in lupus. The work of these groups over the past several decades has greatly contributed to helping our city assume that leadership role in the U.S. and worldwide.”

The evening was hosted by Willie Geist, new co-host of NBC’s Today Show and MSNBC’s Morning Joe. With over 700 members of New York’s philanthropic, government, business and heath care communities, the night raised more than $2.5 million, including a donation call-to-bid that was exciting to see happening live – continuing support from all donors and sponsors.

Dessert included a captivating performance by five-time Tony away winner, Audra McDonald, a real treat! She memorized us with her angelic voice, but most importantly, her sincere expression of support for the foundation and finding a cure for lupus, sharing personal stories and her efforts.

Lupus, a devastating autoimmune disease, affects 1.5 million Americans, 90 percent of whom are women, has a two to three times greater risk among women of color. Fern and Lenard Tessler, gala honorees, were honored that evening for their relentless pursuit of improving lupus car through research so that the 1.5 million is decreased.

Gala 2012 Dinner Chairs included Jennie & Richard DeScherer; Susan Golick & Alan Wasserman; Ronnie & Michael Kassan; Bonnie Englebardt Lautenberg & Senator Frank R. Lautenberg; Andrea & Jeff Lomasky; Lisa & Mark Neporent; Linda & Seth Plattus; Beth & Alan Waldenberg and Carol & Michael Weisman.

New York luminaries supporting the event included Audra’s husband and Broadway star Will Swenson; Governor Mario Cuomo & Mrs. Matilda Cuomo; opera legend Jessye Norman; philanthropists Edward & Arlyn Gardner and socialite Karen Koeningsberg. A live auction conducted by world-renowned Christie’s brought in many more members to the growing family of active combatants against lupus.

DeScherer concluded, “The support in this room tonight and throughout the year is what allows us to continue closing in on the cause and going for the cure. It is what allows us to keep fighting for a “Life Without Lupus.”

– Ana