For the past 16 years, the champion behind the MS Dinner of Champions has been Tom Sherak, who has seen almost $40 million raised, including the $2.5 million brought in Thursday at the Century Plaza.
Sherak’s fund-raising technique has always centered on honoring a major industry figure at the event (with the strong studio backing that comes with that), and this year it was Disney Studios prexy Oren Aviv who was tapped.
“I did this for Tom,” Aviv said. “I’m thrilled to do it for him, and I’m proud to do it for him.”
As for the support of Disney, topper Bob Iger said, “We felt this was a cause worth fighting for.”
The dinner, emceed by Byron Allen, began with a strong four-song perf by the Pointer Sisters, followed by remarks from David Landers; co-honoree Sarah duPont; and Sherak, his wife, Madeleine, and daughter Melissa Sherak Glasser, who spoke movingly about her battle living with MS.
Scott Sanders, a longtime friend of Aviv’s, made the award presentation after being introduced by Joe Roth, who said he knew “Orin since the days when he was a little pisher at Disney cutting trailers.”
Aviv began his acceptance by thanking Roth for referring to him as a pisher, with the main part of his speech centering on his daughter Andie, who was born deaf and given two cochlear implants.
“Now that she can hear me,” said Aviv, “it’s a question of whether she’ll listen to me.”