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Every day, patients and staff who walk along the corridors near Radiation Therapy at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital are greeted by a painting of a dark-haired woman in a multi-colored dress. Her arms are extended as if preparing for an embrace; her head is tilted back with a reassuring smile.
The subject of the painting, Marguerite Piazza, has been a supporter of St. Jude for almost 30 years through the Marguerite Piazza Gala to Benefit St. Jude, which was held on April 3 at the historic Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee.
Piazza, a legend in the international opera community, made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1951. She was also known for her appearances on the 1950s NBC classic Your Show of Shows starring Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca.
The gala began in the mid 1970s when St. Jude founder Danny Thomas asked Piazza to help raise money and awareness for the hospital. The Marguerite Piazza Gala was born and has since become Memphis’ oldest and finest charity gala and one of St. Jude’s longest running galas. Since it’s inception it has raised more than $2 million for St. Jude.
At this year’s event, Michael Heisley, owner of the National Basketball Association’s Memphis Grizzlies team, and John Osbourne and Hollywood Casino, were honored with the Healing Rose Humanitarian Award for their contributions to St. Jude.
As owner of the Grizzlies, Heisley’s team donated $5 million for the construction of the Memphis Grizzlies House, a facility on the St. Jude campus where patients and families in town for short stays can reside instead of a hotel room.
Osbourne and the Hollywood Casino were honored for their work for St. Jude through the Red Carpet Bash and other support for St. Jude. The Red Carpet Bash is an annual event begun in 2002 and held at Hollywood Casino in Tunica, Mississippi.
“Marguerite Piazza has been a steadfast supporter of St. Jude since the day Danny Thomas asked if she would consider hosting a fund raiser for the hospital,” said David L. McKee, chief operations officer for ALSAC/St. Jude, the hospital’s fund-raising arm. “The Marguerite Piazza Gala is one of those special events that have become a part of St. Jude history and we are thankful to Marguerite and all those involved for their continued support.”