The Reception Dinner on Friday night was kicked off by a cocktail hour in which survivors, caregivers, doctors, pharmaceutical representatives and guests met and made friends, many for the first time.

Amid shouts of, “I’m so glad to finally meet you!” and “Good to see you again!” were offers of “Let me introduce you to so-and-so,” as members introduced each other to family and other local members. The attendees then moved inside for a wonderful dinner, followed by speeches and the presentation of awards.

Dick Kinzig, Chicago-area Coordinator welcomed everyone and spoke about why he joined the LRG and how he founded the first local chapter. LRG Board President, Jerry Cudzil, delivered his first address as President. He honored former president, Stan Bunn and expressed his hopes for the future of the group. Executive Director, Norman Scherzer followed with a heartfelt speech about what keeps him fighting. Then it was on to the awards!

The Association of Online Cancer Resources (ACOR) received a Certificate of Appreciation, graciously accepted by President, Gilles Frydman. Steve Rigg, who >
helped create the LRG Patient Registry, received an Allan Tobes Volunteer Award. Kendra Tobes presented the award after a touching speech about her late husband who acted as Chief Financial Officer, board member and local area coordinator for the LRG. In a surprise twist, the Master of Ceremonies himself, Dick Kinzig, was also presented with a Volunteer Award. Finally, the Humanitarian of the Year Award was presented to Dr. Lee Helman, by Board Member, Ray Montague, for his role in the creation of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Pediatric GIST clinic.

Saturday and Sunday’s general sessions and workshops proved to be very informative. Special thanks must go out to Dr. Bruce Brockstein of Evanston Hospital and Donna Mazzone, RN of Lutheran General Hospital who filled in at the last
minute for Dr. Jonathan Trent and Pat Neal, RN, respectively, both of MD Anderson in Houston, Texas.

Attendees were offered sessions on topics like GIST 101, an LRG Research Team update, GIST survival strategies, nutrition, drug development, coping, side-effects and building a personal survival plan.

A bonus for the weekend was a spectacular Saturday night dinner, planned by LRG member, Phil Vettel. Anyone who wished to attend, enjoyed a fantastic dinner at Tavern at the Park, followed by a trip to Millenium Park. Although it was a little wet, everyone had a great time, especially the interactive Crown Fountain. Very special thanks to Michael O’Connor for providing a bus and Pete DeCastro of Tavern at the Park for going above and beyond charitable.

Other thanks include Jennifer Sisson and the staff of the Hyatt Regency O’Hare for their great support during the weekend; the Chicago-area local chapter members who volunteered to aid LRG staff and help their fellow members. Of course, a big thanks to everyone who attended for making the event such a success.

Please go to the Life Fest Archive if you would like to view:

● Life Fest Presentations
● Videos from the Reception Dinner
● A photo slideshow of the weekend or
● Life Fest 2008 agenda