Dolphin Ball strives for ‘cure found’

Flamenco dancers heat up the night, all part of the Spanish Flamenco-themed evening of the Dolphin Ball.

Chair Linda Hamilton, who has been involved in the event since its inception, and actors Tracey Bregman (“The Young and The Restless”) and Michael Beach (“Waiting to Exhale”) as well as master of ceremonies Jonathan Banks added celeb glamour to the ball, which raised more than $300,000. But the real stars of the evening were the young people who have struggled with and survived the disease,

cystic fibrosis.

By Laura Tate / Editor

People were in the mood to give Saturday night at the 9th annual Dolphin Ball. Under a great white tent festooned in colors of red and gold, Malibuites and out-of-towners reached deep into their pockets, raising $329,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and KTLA Charities.

The ball, of which the theme was “Noche Flamenca,” took place at the family estate of Steven and Debbie Weiss of Malibu on a cool-weather evening, although guests dressed in multicolored gowns of red, bright orange, yellow, blue and more, and fluttering red fans, helped heat the night up.

And the heat got hotter during the live-auction portion of the evening, as items like a five star trip to India (donated by the MacGregor, Sidhu and Tripathy families), which received a high bid of $13,000, a hand-painted surfboard going for $5,200 and a Vail, Colo. celebrity ski trip (donated by American Airlines), bringing in $11,000, and more items raised a major portion of funds. Straight cash donations raised $40,000 (Chris MacGregor started out the Bid from the Heart cash donations at $10,000), plus $40,000 in ticket sales, $90,000 in sponsor donations and $80,000 in cash donations, as well as a tribute book donation of $10,000, raised the rest, which doubled funds raised from last year’s total of $164,000.

The annual event was inspired by local Kayleigh MacGregor, who was born with cystic fibrosis and has gone through several surgeries as well as intensive physical therapy to combat the disease. She now has a feeding tube, which allows her to receive supplemental nutrition.

In addition to Kayleigh, several young guests who also suffer from the disease were the focus of the evening.

As master of ceremonies Jonathan Banks said in introducing the MacGregors and the others, “These are people who fight giants, and the giant is CF.”

In an eloquently written speech, Katelyn Salmont, 19, who was diagnosed at the age of two with cystic fibrosis, told the audience about her ordeal and triumphs in battling the disease.

Salmont was told by her doctors that she would not make it to the age of 14, but she said to her family and the audience, “It’s because of you that I am here tonight.”

Salmont’s health was stabilized by the age of three, and despite a rigorous daily medical routine, her father, Randy, helped his daughter enjoy activities such as snow skiing and water skiing. However, by the age of 17, Salmont’s health deteriorated to the point that she was no longer able to do one of the activities she most enjoyed most, ride and compete in horse shows. After much research and contemplation on the option of a lung transplant, Salmont said, “I chose life.”

Nine months ago she received a “living lobar” lung transplant (as opposed to receiving a lung from a cadaver), with lung lobes donated by her father and close family friend Kathy Oswald. Six months ago, she was back on a horse, she said, and soon was showing again.

The audience rose to their feet to this news and gave Salmont, her father and Oswald a standing ovation.

“Life is finally on track, and I look forward to the future,” Salmont said. “And I am glad to have the word ‘future’ in my vocabulary now.”

Another young woman, Summer Love, also spoke of her fight against the debilitating effects of cystic fibrosis (the disease is caused by a defective gene that causes the body to produce an abnormally thick, sticky mucus that clogs the lungs and leads to life-threatening lung infections). Growing up and throughout hospitalizations and treatments, Love credited her family’s help in allowing her to “explore things I thought I never could.” Now married, she said with her husband’s support, “together, we can fight anything this disease throws at us.”

And, Love told the audience, “Together, let’s make CF stand for ‘Cure Found.'”