One Masterful Evening for Kids with Cancer, a reception and fundraising dinner featuring Master Sommelier Fred Dame, raised $240,000 to fight childhood cancer – finding sponsors in a single night for six of the eight pediatric cancer patient rooms at the new Dwaine & Cynthia Willett Children’s Hospital of Savannah. That stand-alone children’s hospital is now under construction on the campus of Memorial University Medical Center.
The eight grateful young patients and their families who were featured at the event drove home the regional nature of cancer treatment. Memorial hosts the only pediatric cancer resources in the region, and makes it possible for children from a surrounding 35-county area in southeast Georgia and the nearby South Carolina low country to receive treatment within striking distance of their homes. Among those patients are Anna Hays Polk, 7, daughter of Jody and Rett Polk of Statesboro, who was treated for leukemia; Mariela Villia, 18, of Lyons, who was treated for leukemia; Hunter Stanfield, 13, of Glennville, who was treated for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma; Maci Varnell, 17, daughter of Ronnie and Terri Varnell of Brooklet, treated for Hodgkin’s lymphoma; and Harlee Whitley, 9, of Baxley, treated for rhabdomyosarcoma. The young Savannah patients featured were Rachel Kavlie, 5, daughter of Lucas and Kerry Kavlie, treated for leukemia; David Pamplona, son of the Rev. Jessee and Victoria Pamplona, diagnosed at age 11 with a brain tumor; and Derrick Chisholm, son of Utesia Chisholm, treated for an optic tumor.
The April 21 event began with a reception and dinner with wine pairings selected by Master Sommelier Fred Dame, a close friend of Billy and Ann Crider of Stillmore. The occasion grew from the vision of Crider, inspired by his friendship with longtime pediatrician Joe Morrison, M.D., now retired.
One Masterful Evening for Kids with Cancer attracted 260 people to the dinner at the Hyatt Regency Savannah and was preceded by a separately ticketed reception at an historic Savannah home.
Pediatric cancer care at Memorial is directed by Martin Johnston, M.D., who works with numerous pediatric subspecialists, including the region’s sole pediatric neurosurgeon, Will Thompson, M.D., as well as the radiation oncologists at the Curtis and Elizabeth Anderson Cancer Institute at Memorial. This collaboration is unique to our region and children from South Carolina to the Florida line depend on these services.