Locals were cutting the rug this past Thursday at the Bell Bottoms & Bright Lights event, hosted by Jessica Tonti, Michele Eichler & Lauri Freund. It might not have been at Studio 54 but guests gathered at the next best place – the Andy Warhol Museum, which honors the prolific artist, cultural icon and god father of the pop art movement. The event kicked off at 7 pm with guests garbed in their 70’s best. It was all flares, platforms, and fringe in this disco hothouse as guests came together on the strobe-lit dance floor. Riding the wave of 70’s dance music were supporters of Lending Hearts – an organization that provides emotional and social support to children and young adults with cancer.
VIP Ticket holders enjoyed preferred parking, complimentary cocktails and appetizers. Guests could take in the many wonders of the venue space itself with access to all of the Andy Warhol exhibits, featuring more than 900 paintings, 100 sculptures, 2,000 works on paper and 4,000 photographs. The event, led by WTAE’s Sheldon Ingram, provided attendees with 50/50 opportunities to win cash and prizes for best dressed. Highlights of the evening also included the opportunity to screen print a Lending Hearts tote bag or T-shirt and disco dance party, featuring music by DJ Digital Dave.
At Bell Bottoms & Bright Lights, it seemed everyone was ready to “boogie down” – all in an effort to raise funds for the pediatric cancer community. Seen pointing their disco finger on the dance floor – City of Pittsburgh Councilman, Corey O’Connor, Title Sponsor, Nancy Lynches, of The Lynches Seymour Group of Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC, Lending Hearts Board Chairman, Fasy Greevy and The Pittsburgh Social Exchange’s Ethan and Kim Nicholas.
Pittsburgh is home to award-winning children’s hospitals, acknowledged for their expertise in diagnosing and treating children and adolescents with all forms of cancer. Well-known for their cutting-edge research, cancer patients have access to incredible clinical trials and the most promising and newest treatment options. Despite major advances from an overall survival rate of 10 percent just fifty years ago to nearly 90 percent today, there is not much doctors can do to treat the emotional journey that accompanies the diagnosis for patients.
Vasso Paliouras, Founder and Executive Director of Lending Hearts, knows this all too well. Her sister, Constance, was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin’s Disease as a junior in high school at the age of seventeen. Vasso knows this emotional journey can be exhausting for patients and their families. “When a child or young adult is diagnosed with cancer, they and the entire family often experience feelings of fear, hopelessness and loneliness,” says Vasso. “A child may not know anyone else who has gone through cancer treatments-especially at their age. They may miss extensive amounts of time from school and friends. The entire family experiences a great number of changes that leads to stresses emotionally, mentally, socially and financially. Lending Hearts was established to provide emotional and social support for the entire family. Through our programming, we fill a gap by providing Pittsburgh with the first ever, pediatric, adolescent and young adult focused organization.”
Founded in 2011, Lending Hearts seeks to embrace children and young adults either battling cancer or in remission. With a mission to enhance and enrich their lives, Lending Hearts provides free memorable events entered around arts, culture, health, wellness & education, in partnership with many local agencies. The events provide an opportunity to create new friendships and bond with children going through similar experiences while providing educational and emotional support for their family members. “The feedback we receive from our Lending Hearts families reaffirms our mission. Emotional and social wellness are just as important as physical wellness for these families,” says Vasso.
Chad Hilliard was quick to site why he chose to “lend his heart” as a voluntary board member of the organization. “As a 38 year cancer survivor, I know the effect that Lending Hearts has on the families they support. At this most difficult time, Lending Hearts provides unique programming that adds a sense of normalcy to a child’s life affected by cancer. I wish an organization like this was around when I was a child dealing with the disease. I am honored to be part of this amazing organization!”
“Bell Bottoms & Bright Lights is giving us a unique opportunity to introduce Lending Hearts to many new faces,” said event co-chair and Board Member, Jessica Tonti. “One of the most important roles we have on the Lending Hearts Board of Directors is to keep sharing the mission with new people, not only to help grow funds for our programs but also, most importantly, to help the Pittsburgh community understand the difference Lending Hearts makes in the lives of families dealing with cancer. Our annual Kites take Flight Against Childhood Cancer event being held the afternoon of September 25 at Shady Side Academy is another way we are sharing our Lending Hearts mission. We can’t wait to share Lending Hearts’ work at this event. Hopefully, you can be there.”