Let’s Be Frank About Cancer Gala at Balboa Bay Resort Raises $530K for City of Hope

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Frank Di Bella

Cancer survivor and philanthropist Frank Di Bella brought together community leaders, philanthropists, other cancer survivors, and City of Hope supporters for the ninth annual “Let’s Be Frank About Cancer” gala that took place on March 18 at the Balboa Bay Resort in Newport Beach, raising funds for City of Hope’s life-saving cancer research and programs.

The evening saluted Orange County’s many cancer champions and was capped by honoring noted Orange County philanthropists and “Keepers of the Inn” of the Mission Inn in Riverside, Kelly and Duane Roberts, with the Frank Di Bella Humanitarian Award.

Since its inception in 2015, the black-tie gala has raised more than $9 million for City of Hope. Funds from the event will support research by oncologist Sumanta K. Pal, M.D., who treated Di Bella at City of Hope in Duarte and now at City of Hope Orange County.

Dr. Pal, co-director of the Kidney Cancer Program at City of Hope, focuses his work on understanding how cancers develop and metastasize, predicting cancer recurrence, and improving treatments with fewer side effects.

“I am so honored that so many people came to support Let’s Be Frank About Cancer,” Di Bella said. “Thanks to the help of these contributions from private individuals and local businesses, City of Hope and Dr. Pal can continue to provide the ultimate care, leading-edge research and most importantly, HOPE, to patients like me. And now, with City of Hope right here in Orange County, even more local lives will be impacted.”

Di Bella was diagnosed with metastatic bladder cancer in 2011 and was given only months to live. After seeking care from Dr. Pal at City of Hope, he is still thriving. Twelve years later and Di Bella credits Dr. Pal for saving his life, and has made it his mission to support City of Hope’s ongoing research efforts.

Kelly Roberts, vice chairman and chief operating officer of The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, and Amrita Krishnan, M.D., hematologist at City of Hope Orange County

The event raised more than $530,000 for City of Hope Orange County Lennar Foundation Cancer Center and cancer research under the direction of Dr. Pal.

Annette Walker, president of City of Hope Orange County, said the tireless efforts of Di Bella, Roberts, and other local philanthropists are integral to City of Hope’s mission.

“Philanthropy holds tremendous power and gives people the chance to live better, longer and healthier lives,” she said. “City of Hope’s supporters have been central to our story and have helped fuel our vision to bring the most advanced cancer care to the Orange County community. Thanks to generous donors like Kelly and Duane, Frank and the entire gala committee, we are providing our patients access to leading-edge research and pioneering treatments.”

Kelly and Duane Roberts were the evening’s Platinum Sponsors, along with The Hardin Family as Gold Sponsors. Additionally, Frank Di Bella and Claudette Kraus, St. Augustine RV and Musick, Peeler, Garrett, LLP were all Bronze Sponsors of the gala.

Among the 300-plus guests were Newport Beach resident Dennis Kuhl, Chairman of Angels Baseball; Shannon Beador of the Real Housewives of OC; CEO of Mechanics Bank John DeCero; and many others. Jann Carl, former Entertainment Tonight correspondent and co-host of the breakout reality hit “Small Town Big Deal,” served as Mistress of Ceremonies. Mike Shumard was the event’s auctioneer.

An exciting moment of the evening was the event’s ask to fund minutes of research in the lab, which was kicked off by Kelly and Duane Roberts announcing a matching gift. More than $130,000 was raised in this paddle raise portion of the night.

City of Hope Orange County Lennar Foundation Cancer Center – Orange County’s most advanced comprehensive cancer center – opened in Irvine last year.

Patients receive fully integrated, multidisciplinary cancer care, from prevention through survivorship, in one convenient location, where every physician and staff member is solely focused on treating and curing cancer.

The comprehensive cancer center provides patients with access to more than 500 physicians and 1,000 researchers who only focus on cancer. Patients have access to more than 800 phase one through three clinical trials conducted each year at City of Hope that speed promising treatments years before becoming standard of care.

The region’s only hospital exclusively focused on treating and curing cancer will open on the site in 2025.

City of Hope’s mission is to deliver the cures of tomorrow to the people who need them today. Founded in 1913, City of Hope has grown into one of the largest cancer research and treatment organizations in the U.S. and one of the leading research centers for diabetes and other life-threatening illnesses.

For more information, visit https://www.cityofhope.org/oc.

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