Via Philly PR Girl – The 140th Preakness Stakes ran for two minutes, but the funds raised from Preakness at the Piazza will run much farther in helping to find a cure for Multiple Sclerosis. One of Philadelphia’s biggest spring season charity events returned to The Piazza at Schmidt’s on Saturday, May 16 for its third year, attracting more guests and raising more money than ever before. An impressive turnout of 1,000 finely dressed attendees gathered to party with a purpose, accumulating over $110,000 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
This year’s event was hosted by FOX 29’s Alex Holley and sponsor 97.5 The Fanatic’s Pat Gallen, who officiated the live viewing, fashion contest, raffle winners, betting boards, and more. Natalie Egenolf from Phillies Nation hosted the red carpet, interviewing Preakness committee members and special VIP guests, such as Mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter.
After American Pharaoh won the second leg of the Triple Crown, attendees were excited to hear the reveal of the winners for the Preakness fashion contest. Judges included PHL17’s Francesca Ruscio, 6ABC’s Eva Pilgrim, Philadelphia Magazine’s Bryan Buttler, President of Philadelphia Academies, Inc. and First Lady of Philadelphia Lisa Nutter, and Men’s Style Pro Founder Sabir Peele. Each was responsible for selecting a Best Dressed Female, Best Dressed Male, Best Couple, Best Hat, and Best Shoe at the event.
Despite evening rain showers, DJ Royale kept the crowd dancing all night long, with a little help from sponsors Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Evil Genius Beer Company, and the mixologists from 13th Street Cocktails. Guests accessed a horse race-themed open bar and buffet at their leisure. This event would not be possible without the generous support of all of its providers, including 95.7 Ben FM, Philadelphia Magazine’s Shoppist, and The Shops at Liberty Place.
In addition to attending the Preakness at the Piazza, I had the pleasure of interviewing Maria C. Oberst, Special Events Coordinator for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s Greater Delaware Valley Chapter, about the debilitating disease, the organization’s work, and what’s up next for them. The MS Society mobilizes people and resources through fundraising efforts to drive research for a cure and to address the challenges of the more than 15,000 people living with MS in Philadelphia and the surrounding region. To date, the organization has raised over $350k through the Preakness event alone.
Sincerely Syreeta: Maria, can you explain what MS is and what it does to the human body?
Maria Oberst: The easiest way to explain MS is to think about a nerve being like an electrical wire. When you have electricity going through that wire, it starts at point A and gets to point B. When you have MS there is an interruption in the middle of that wire and so information from point A cannot get to point B; it gets stuck or lost somewhere in the middle. With this nerve damage, what happens is that there’s a variety of symptoms that people can have. It can be fatigue, numbness, tingling, memory loss, vision issues, the inability to move arms and legs, and can lead to paralysis as well.
What’s tough about MS is that it impacts everyone differently. You can look fine but be in pain or extremely tired. You might not know if you’re going to have a symptom today, tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year. It’s the unknown that is quite scary for people living with MS, unfortunately.
SS: It is definitely scary especially since things can decline so quickly. I have a loved one who has MS and, over time, it has been tough on both them and the family. There’s this feeling of helplessness that the family experiences at times as we watch them go through this battle…
MO: Unfortunately we’re at point where there is no cure, there is no knowledge of where it came from. So as a family member it can be hard because you want to do anything you can to help your family member with MS but there is no magic cure at this point yet–which is why we’re funding so much research to find out ways to stop the disease where it is, restore function that people might have lost, and hopefully find a way to end the disease forever.
SS: Well we certainly need that kind of work, and events like Preakness help make that possible. Speaking of Preakness, the event started three years ago with a few people who were involved with the MS society and wanted to target the young professional demographic, a population that none of your events were engaging at that time. Can you give us some more background on the conception of the event?
MO: Originally we were thinking, okay let’s have couple hundred people, raise a couple thousand dollars. And quickly those goals escalated. People started getting really excited about the event. So…yeah…pretty big outcome from one little tiny idea. [laughs]
SS: It’s amazing what great things can happen when driven minds come together.
MO: It really did come from three people sitting down and saying, “we want to do something.” It really just starts with an idea and motivating people. Slowly through their networks we’ve been able to build up this event to what we call the fashion event of the spring which is a fun way that we get people to attend: we drum up the derby attire of bow ties for men and hats for ladies and really, go big or go home with your fashion.
SS: And each year people GO BIG with the fashion! [laughs] So what are your thoughts on this year’s event?
MO: This year was a little bit different; we were worried about rain the entire time but we didn’t really have to worry because people enjoyed the event rain or shine! Everyone had a great time. The fashion was over the top. People were dancing to DJ Royale in the rain and really enjoying themselves while helping the MS Society, which is always good.
SS: Indeed it is! So with yet another successful fundraising event under your belt, what’s up next for the MS Society?
MO: The MS Society never stops or sleeps really! We have multiple events coming up. You’d be surprise the number of people who didn’t think they knew someone with MS; it’s not something you automatically tell someone when you meet them for the first time. The more we can connect people with information and services, the [better]!
To learn more about the National MS Society and how you can get involved, visit: www.nationalmssociety.org
– Sincerely Syreeta