Saturday, June 1, 2019 marked the 58th annual GI Research Foundation Ball, where the GIRF community toasted a year of research achievement and continuing support for the University of Chicago Digestive Diseases Center. Co-chaired by long-time GI Research Foundation board members Howard Grill and Beatrice G. Crain, the event raised a record-breaking $1.6 million, including a new “moonshot” research program to find the cause and cure for IBD.
A highlight of the evening was the incredible show of generosity by Sy and Nancy Taxman. Not only did the the Taxmans lead fundraising efforts as Premier Benefactors for the evening, but they started the paddle raise at a new high of $50,000 and issued a match for the first 20 gifts at the $2,500 level. “Nancy and I, through our Family Foundation, have had the privilege of working with, being patients of and associating with the extremely bright group of medical professionals that make up The GI section at the University of Chicago,” Mr. Taxman says. “These professionals have shown that great research together with exceptional patient care is the best way to find solutions for the many complex medical problems this team deals with every day. We hope to be able to continue our support for many years to come.”
Board of Directors President Eric Berlin kicked off the dinner by presenting Ralph Kaufmann, the Board’s longest serving member, along with his wife DeeDee, the GI Research Foundation’s Award for Excellence in Service for their lifelong commitment and major contributions to sustaining the GI Research Foundation. Joseph Kirsner, MD, cared for Kaufmann as an eleven-year-old pediatric patient, beginning their lifelong friendship and the Kaufmanns’ commitment to GIRF. Explained Berlin, “Ralph’s dedication to GIRF has been his way of repaying his debt of gratitude to Dr. Kirsner’s life-changing care and to help foster the ground-breaking research that GIRF conducts. His dream – his hope – is that no one would have to experience what he went through over 65 years ago.”
In an inspiring and uplifting presentation, one of the many highlights of the evening, patient Nick DiNardi, and physician Russell D. Cohen shared DiNardi’s personal story of living with IBD. He spoke of his experiences of growing up with debilitating Crohn’s disease, the expert care that brought him into remission and his triumphant turn as a Division I Final Four basketball star for Loyola in 2018. As he personally benefitted from the work of the GI Research Foundation, DiNardi currently gives back through volunteering with the Associates Board of GIRF, working as a researcher at the University of Chicago Digestive Diseases Center, and plans to become a GI physician.
GI Research Foundation Medical Director David T. Rubin, MD also spoke, highlighting the importance of support for GI research at the University of Chicago Medicine Digestive Diseases Center, explaining, “The GI Research Foundation has been our partner in our mission, and has advanced the healing imperative for over 65 years. I explain to our faculty and trainee recruits that GIRF is what has enabled the University of Chicago to become the leader it is in GI and GI surgery.” He also introduced the Moonshot for IBD research program, the focus of the paddle raise fundraiser.