On Saturday, May 1, 2021, the GI Research Foundation Ball Diamond Anniversary Ball celebrated 60 brilliant years with a high energy tribute to the best and brightest of GIRF. In a virtual event like no other, the Foundation raised more than $1.3 million for research at the University of Chicago Medicine Digestive Diseases Center.

The GI Research Foundation honored grande dame Beatrice “Bee” G. Crain of the Crain-Maling Foundation with the inaugural Joseph B. Kirsner Award for her lifelong commitment to the foundation. A cherished friend of the preeminent GI physician and GIRF Founder, Joseph B. Kirsner, MD, PhD (1909-2012), GIRF Ball co-chairs Karyn Hurwich and Kathryn Karmin Shaffer, along with GIRF Board President Yekaterina (Katie) Chudnovsky and Russell D. Cohen, MD, toasted Mrs. Crain, who celebrated her 100th birthday in April, in a fitting tribute to her loyal friendship with “Dr. Joe,” and her tireless efforts to preserve his vision and legacy.

GIRF Vice President of Finance Howard Grill and Lead Scientific Advisor David T. Rubin, MD, presented the first-ever Partners in Science Award to longtime GIRF champions Sy and Nancy Taxman.

In his heartfelt tribute, Dr. Rubin relayed that Mr. Taxman had once shared this quotation underscoring his beliefs about philanthropy and a life well lived:

Happiness is not so much in having, as sharing. We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give. What happiness is, no person can say for another, but no one can be happy who lives only for himself or herself. The joy of living comes from immersion in something that we know to be bigger, better, worthier, and more enduring than we are.

Mr. Taxman offered his appreciation for GIRF and the GI Research Foundation, dubbing Dr. Rubin “Super David,” and the Digestive Diseases team “Rubin’s Raiders” in reference to his supersize devotion and skill in treating digestive diseases (and the new billboard overlooking the Kennedy expressway). Mrs. Taxman took this special opportunity to thank GIRF, and to recognize the milestones of longtime friend Bee Crain’s 100th birthday, and her and Mr. Taxman’s 60th wedding anniversary.

Research spotlights featured work conducted by leaders in digestive diseases clinical and translational research, Sajan Nagpal, MBBS, and A. Murat Eren (Meren), PhD, both recipients of GIRF research support. Dr. Nagpal explained his ongoing research, centered on early identification and stratification of pancreatic cancer. Meren described his ongoing efforts to research explore the diversity of the microbiome, and why some microbial communities can sustain themselves in inflammatory conditions.

In a moving story, Heidi Henderson, an ulcerative colitis patient, shared her hopeful story of successful ulcerative colitis treatment due to the University of Chicago Medicine Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center proactive care and treatment with front line medications. Now in remission from her disease, Ms. Henderson offered sincere thanks to the University of Chicago and the GI Research Foundation.

Even on YouTube, the GIRF Ball always means top flight entertainment. This year, renowned mentalist Oz Pearlman amazed the viewing audience, with the help of many GIRF volunteers, including UChicago Medicine’s own Russell D. “Rusty” Cohen, MD (watch and be amazed!).

Chicago pop-rock band Maggie Speaks offered upbeat musical interludes throughout the program, and Ben Bradley of Chicago’s WGN news team anchored the webcast as the evening’s master of ceremonies. As a special surprise, baseball legends Ozzie Guillen and Fergie Jenkins took calls from attendees making phone donations.

Thanks to the contributions of the many sponsors and friends of GIRF, the virtual ball raised more than $1.3 million for digestive diseases research, and a generous anonymous donor matched all new and increased gifts up to $250,000. The webcast of the event remains on YouTube, and the GI Research Foundation continues to accept donations online in honor of 60 years!