The Key To Success Of City of Hope Spirit of Life Galas Is The Personal Touch – Forbes

Posted: October 18, 2019 at 2:45 pm

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SANTA MONICA, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 10: (L-R) Alicia Keys, Syliva Rhone and Sara Bareilles attend the ... [+] City Of Hope's Spirit of Life 2019 Gala held at The Barker Hanger on October 10, 2019 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Michael Tran/Getty Images)

As I recently wrote about after seeing the Red Hot Chili Peppers play a backyard party, Oceana has become one of the most beloved charities by musicians (link below). The most beloved?

After Beyonce played last year and Alicia Keys and Sara Bareilles teamed up for a joint performance this year, it's hard to argue against City of Hope. What they achieve on a yearly basis with their Spirit of Life gala is dazzling.

It's not hard to figure out why. As City of Hope President/CEO Robert Stone told me, "Cancer touches everyone, and you have someone stand up there and tell the story. And everyone in the audience, I promise you, are thinking the same things: 'That could be me' or 'That's my loved one.' And the whole evening is about providing hope. We're gonna have a great evening with entertainment, we're gonna celebrate. But at the end of the day it comes back to providing hope."

The secret to why these events are so successful is the mix of the personal touch and the entertainment. Take this year's event, held October 10 in Santa Monica, which raised more than $4 million for City of Hope. The musical lineup was, as always, stellar.

Starting with opener Yolanda Adams, everyone, who had a personal connection to honoree, Epic Records President/CEO Sylvia Rhone, delivered. Especially Keys and Barreilles, who came out together, with Keys on piano as Bareilles sang Keys' hit "If I Ain't Got You," then switching places as Keys sang Bareilles' "Gravity," before teaming up teaming up to perform a mashup of their hits "Girl On Fire" and "Brave" for a once in a lifetime collaboration. Then all five members of En Vogue, past and present, teaming up for the first time ever to perform some of their signature songs, such as "Free Your Mind" and "Hold On."

As great as the music was, it was just one part of a night where the focus was on the City of Hope and the good they do for patients battling cancer and other illnesses.

For instance, on this night, superstar producer Kuk Harrell came up and shared his story of how he got involved with City of Hope in part from last year's honoree, Big Jon Platt. Two days before the event he and I spoke and he gave me the in-depth version of what City of Hope did for him as he battled prostate cancer and why he was at Spirit of Life as a cancer survivor first and musician second.

"I will say 100 percent it was definitely miraculous. Having my care at City of Hope was fitting for me because when I was diagnosed late 2017 and had my surgery scheduled in October of 2018, being diagnosed, it was definitely hard. But I've always been a person who looks at everything from the positive side. I've never been a doom and gloom person," Harrell said. "My faith has definitely been the mainstay of all this and when I got diagnosed I had my surgery and six weeks after my surgery, realized my surgery went well. They took out my prostate, they were able to preserve all the nerves. But I had a small positive margin at the neck of the bladder and my surgeon told me because I had that, if anything else I would have to do seven weeks of low-dose radiation treatment. I live down here in Florida, I went to a place down here in Florida and I met with the radiation oncologist here and I just didn't feel comfortable with it, I didn't feel like it was the right place and I put a call out to my manager, Jay Brown at Roc Nation, who was very aware of my situation because we all work together. He said, 'Give me five minutes, I'll call you right back.' He made a call to big Jon, who said, 'Someone from City of Hope is going to be calling you within the hour.' I think four people called right after that. And I felt right away I was at more peace with the whole thing. And then fast forward to when it was time to meet with my medical oncologist, I flew out to L.A., met with her and right away I felt more hope than anything."

The hope they give patients is why music industry figures like Platt and Rhone, who DJ Khaled called, "A legend, an icon, and a music mogul," agree to step out from behind the scenes and make rare forays into the limelight. It's because of the cause.

"To me, City of Hope means doctors, researchers and community. They create miracles that make lives whole again, and my friend Kuk Harrell is proof of that. I am proud to be associated with an organization that is at the forefront of the fight for Health Equity, for African Americans and all minorities," Rhone told me.

She sees that firsthand, as do all of the honorees, as Stone explained to me. "The balance is struck months before the event when you have the honoree come to our Duarte campus and meet patients they are impacting and see the research that they're helping. And that just feeds on itself and it's in the air throughout the day," he said.

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The Key To Success Of City of Hope Spirit of Life Galas Is The Personal Touch - Forbes

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October 18th, 2019 at 2:45 pm