Just before Patrick Swayze took center stage opening the hour-long telethon for Stand Up 2 Cancer (S2C), show producer and cancer survivor Laura Ziskin offered the audience “party favors” tossing packages of tissues from the stage, preparing attendees for an emotional festival for hope.
Celebrity took a backseat as athletes, actors and musicians joined together to fight the leading cause of death in the United States and those who had beaten cancer still found a way to smile about it.
“It took me two years and eight doctors to get a proper diagnosis of uterine cancer,” Fran Drescher told reporters. “I got in the stirrups more than Roy Rogers.”
Lisa Paulsen, President and CEO of the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), which has raised $300 million for cancer research, gave thanks to what she called, “a small, but mighty group of women” who put in two years of labor to bring together the Big Three networks to make this evening a success.
“Katie Couric, Sherry Lansing, Ellen Ziffren, Laura Ziskin, Rusty Robertson, Sue Schwartz, and Noreen Fraser all worked hard to make this happen,” Paulsen told Variety.
Stars were aglow and on the tip of every tongue was a story of how the disease has affected their lives.
America Ferrera ditched the cast of Ugly Betty to take out time to support the effort in memory of her college professor and mentor who battled the disease and lost. Chris Tucker enjoyed a private ride on the elevator before being escorted to his post, and many of the stars manning the phones found it more important to spotlight the viewers calling in to make donations.
“Believe it or not I’ve been answering phone’s since I was five,” Casey Affleck replied after being asked how he’d handle the phones with fans on the other end.
T-shirts worn by those who participated in the telethon told the individual stories of how cancer affected each of their lives. Those whose eyes welled up as they recounted their battle wore the “In Memory Of” versions. The ones who’d beaten the disease, proudly paraded thorough the building with “Survivor” branded on their chests. Each of them giving hope to the initiative that Stand Up to Cancer plans to achieve accelerated research and early detection of the disease to save more lives.
In addition to the donations pooling in, a star-studded eBay auction is being held with all proceeds benefiting S2C. To date, bidding on the “Iron Man 2” walk-on role and movie premiere ticket had reached $5 thousand.
“This is something I’m very proud to be a part of,” Jon Favreau said of the prize. “It’s an opportunity to visit the set…I’ll be friendly to you, I don’t know how busy we’re going to be. It’s going to be a fun set.”
Christina Applegate, Sheryl Crow and Neil Patrick Harris were also in attendance.