Highlights from our annual gala to help #PreventMeningitis
On May 9, 2016 we gathered NMA families, supporters and immunization advocates in New York City for NMA’s eight annual “Give Kids A Shot!” gala to honor the memories of those we’ve lost to meningococcal disease, as well as the families and survivors who have been affected by this potentially preventable disease.
MC for the night Dr. Paul Offit offering opening remarks (Photo by Kari Otero Photography)
At the same time, we celebrated the advances we have made in increasing awareness about meningococcal disease and its prevention. These strides would not have been possible without the work of many, including our extraordinary honorees:
Health Achievement Award: Paul Lee, MD
T.E.A.M. members Carol and Heather Tufano with Dr. Paul Lee (Photo by Kari Otero Photography)
Dr. Lee has made tremendous contributions to help NMA advance its mission. As a practicing physician, currently at Winthrop-University Hospital, he has seen first-hand the devastating impact of meningococcal disease on young people and their families.
At the Gala he discussed how he came to understand the devastating impact of meningococcal disease and the importance of vaccination.
T.E.A.M. Outstanding Service Award: Carl Buher and Mike LaForgia
T.E.A.M. members and Outstanding Service Award winners Carl Buher and Mike LaForgia (Photo by Kari Otero Photography)
This year, NMA recognized two T.E.A.M. members with the outstanding service award, each with their own unique story and contributions towards NMA’s mission.
Carl Buher contracted serogroup B meningococcal disease as a 14-year-old freshmen in high school. While it was four years before he could walk again, nothing could stop Carl from making the best of the situation. Carl recently testified in support of broad national recommendations for the serogroup B vaccine and participated in a number of media interviews to educate the public. At the Gala he reflected on the platform that NMA has given him to make a difference. “[NMA] gave me a platform on which to stand and speak out for vaccination and prevention, and has enabled me to make that platform as broad as I can imagine.”
Mike LaForgia was diagnosed with meningococcal disease in 2005 and lost his left foot and right leg below his knee. He never thought he’d run again. But, Mike ran the New York City marathon twice as a double amputee. These races have served as an opportunity to educate others about meningococcal disease and raise funds to support NMA’s mission. During the Gala, Mike described these races: “While I run, I carry those lost to the disease with me and as I pass others, I want them to know this disease is real.” For more than a decade, Mike has shared his story regularly as an inspirational speaker to both encourage those who have faced obstacles like his, and to raise awareness of meningitis and its prevention. As a father, he made sure all his three children were vaccinated and encourages others to make sure their children are fully vaccinated.
Nancy Ford Springer Inspiration Award: Deion Branch
Deion Branch and NMA President Lynn Bozof. The Deion Branch Foundation supports organizations committed to raising awareness about meningitis, including NMA.
Deion Branch is former New England Patriots wide receiver, a two-time Super Bowl champion and a Super Bowl MVP. At 21 years old, Mr. Branch became a father to twin boys, Deiondre and Deiontey. When Deiondre was one month old, he contracted viral meningitis. The doctors gave him only six months to live, but he survived. In 2004, Deion founded the Deion Branch Foundation to raise awareness about meningitis. Each year, the Foundation coordinates a fundraising team to participate in the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon to support organizations including NMA. At the Gala, he expressed gratitude for the mission of NMA and committed to continue the fight to raise awareness.
Award winners Carl Buher, Mike LaForgia. Deion Branch, and Dr. Paul Lee with NMA President Lynn Bozof (Photo by Kari Otero Photography)
Thank you to everyone who helped make this night possible and those who have supported and continue to support our work!