Myeloma group slates ‘Laugh for Life’ fundraiser


On Saturday, March 15, the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) is having its first fundraising event in St. Louis. Comedian Gary Gulman will be the featured entertainment at “Laugh for Life” being held at the Kemp Auto Museum. The event will also celebrate the progress being made in fighting multiple myeloma by honoring Ravi Vij, M.D. Vij is at Washington University and is the principal investigator on several clinical trials looking at ways to fight the disease.

The MMRF is a national organization established in 1998 with the goal of finding a cure for multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cell. Unfortunately the five-year survival rate for the disease is one of the lowest for all cancers. With an estimated 20,000 cases being diagnosed each year and close to 50,000 people in the United States living with the disease, the need for aggressive research is paramount.

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Shaare Emeth members Ellie and Barry Samson are co-chairs for the event. The timing of the program is not accidental. March 2008 marks Barry’s six-year anniversary of living with the disease and his 60th birthday. The couple is very committed to the organization.

“Ninety-five cents of every dollar raised goes directly to funding research,” Ellie said. “The more people there are doing cancer research the closer everyone is to finding a cure.”

The organization has an impressive track record, said Ellie.

“In past five years, the organization has received United States Food and Drug Administration approval for four new drugs,” Ellie said. “At least 19 other cancers are being treated by these new drugs as well.”

Educating and bringing awareness to the public about the disease is also very important since people can have it for years without knowing it. The Samsons consider themselves lucky since Barry had an unusual presentation of the disease and was diagnosed early.

“Barry experienced some double vision during a ski trip,” Ellie said. “We attributed it to the high altitude. However, he still had it when we returned home.”

The family made a conscious choice after the diagnosis to live their life with humor.

“We felt that complaining and asking ‘why me’ was a waste of energy and serves no purpose,” Ellie said. “Of course we take the disease and the situation very seriously, but family is the most important thing to us and we appreciate and are grateful for every day.”

The family is feeling especially grateful since Barry had a stem cell treatment last May and has not had to be on medication since then. The experience has been a challenge for the family. They learned a lot about themselves and consider themselves very blessed.

“Family is everything,” Ellie said. “Barry loves being with his grandchildren. It is a huge life force for him.”

“Laugh for Life” begins at 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 15 with cocktails and a silent auction with over 65 items. Several items are from premier jewelry makers across the country. The event also includes a light dinner and a live auction with six unique items including three priceless packages from the St. Louis Cardinals.

“One item from the Cardinals is a private party for 40 in April,” Ellie said. “Another item is for four people including round trip airfare, accommodations at the team hotel and game tickets to the Cardinal game in Cincinnati in August. The other item is an original stadium chair signed by many of the great players including: Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Stan Musial and Ozzie Smith.

To purchase “Laugh for Life” event tickets or for more information about MMRF visit For questions about the disease and local information call Ellie Samson at 314-878-0257.