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Joining me at Hoag's Circle 1000 Founders' Brunch was keynote speaker Jamie Lee Curis

Joining me at Hoag’s 27th Annual Circle 1000 Founders’ Brunch was keynote speaker Jamie Lee Curtis

Jamie Lee Curtis, the curvy wife of Arnold Schwarengger in True Lies and promoter of Activia yogurt, was the keynote speaker at the 27th Annual Circle 1000 Founders’ Celebration Brunch, benefiting the Hoag Family Cancer Center, held at the Island Hotel in Newport Beach. I expected to see Jamie in her signature short, short hairstyle, but instead, she wore a pink wig. The first thing out of her mouth when she began her talk was the explanation for the wig. She was wearing it to pay tribute to a young girl named Katie Westbrook, who she befriended while the 13-year-old was fighting cancer, a battle she ultimately lost. Jamie asked the family for the wig following her death. “I wanted to bring Katie’s courage and spirit here today,” Curtis said, “because I’m representing every human being fighting for his or her life.”

I’ll go back to her heartwarming speech in a minute, but I wanted to acknowledge Founders’ committee chair Beth Knapp, underwriting chair Tara Shapiro and the 21-member committee, many of them past chairs. This committee helped raise an impressive $930,000 for the Hoag Family Cancer Institute. Knapp introduced Dr. Burt Eisenberg, the new Executive Medical Director of the Institute and read Eisenberg’s achievements, which were exemplary. Hoag is definitely fortunate to have him on its team! She also acknowledged Hoag Hospital President/CEO Robert Braithwaite and Hoag Hospital Foundation President Dr. Flynn Andrizzi. Recognizing who she called Hoag’s “world-renowned” Hoag physicians in attendance, she introduced Dr. Jack Cox, Dr. Aidan Raney, Dr. Douglas Zusman, Dr. Gary Levine, and Dr. Christopher Duma. Knapp continued by thanking the Hoag medical, nursing and administrative staff by saying, “Your commitment and compassion is the core of the exceptional care one expects and receives at Hoag Newport, Hoag Irvine and the Hoag Family Cancer Institute.”

Then came the “goose bump” moment when Knapp asked the 468 guests attending who were cancer survivors, fighters and caregivers to stand. She proceeded to ask those to stand who were cancer-free for five years, 10 years, etc. on up to 25 years. There were many standing. “This is the part of the program that is at the heart of our fundraising efforts,” Knapp said.

Curtis, who spoke next, admitted to being a bit teary-eyed at the importance of those standing. “Life is beautiful, transformational and painful,” she said. “Each of us must accept the things we cannot change – my genetics, my Grandma Helen moving in five years ago – can’t change it!” she added humorously. “The things I can change are my attitude, my mind, my hair, writing children’s books (she has authored 10 books), sobriety.” Curtis summed things up by saying she’s tries to live by two principles in her daily life: “Did I learn to live wisely?” and “Did I love well?”

At the conclusion of Curtis’s talk, Marisha Van Dyke, representing Traditional Jewelers in Fashion Island, presented the award-winning actress with an Ippolita mother-of-pearl and diamond pendant in 18k yellow gold from its “Lollipop” collection.

I’ve been attending this event for more than 20 years, and I do want to mention that it was founded by breast cancer survivor Sandy Sewell. Curtis lauded her in her talk by saying, “Sandy, thank you for having this brilliant idea!” Circle 1000 was launched in 1987 when Sewell gathered friends around her who would contribute $1,000 annually and who would in turn ask their own circle of friends to participate. Today, those humble beginnings have expanded to 1,000 friends, who have collectively raised more than $14.4 million for Hoag. Hear! Hear!

Selected photos by Ketara Gedahn

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