The Lupus Research Alliance (LRA)’s 2020 Virtual Fundraising Event surpassed its goal last week, raising $3.1 million for lupus research programs.

Led by inspiring words from Lady Gaga and Selena Gomez and hosted by TV broadcaster Willie Geist, the online program gathered an audience of 5,000 from around the world online to catapult awareness of lupus and the urgent need for research as well as to celebrate as one global community. The event can be viewed online here using the PIN LRA20.

The program featured a never-before-released rendition of Lady Gaga singing her Grammy-winning song, Joanne, in honor of her aunt Joanne who died of lupus at just 19. Lady Gaga expressed how the Lupus Research Alliance is near and dear to her family with her dad and Joanne’s brother Joe Germanotta serving on the organization’s Board of Directors. Selena Gomez also shared her own fight with lupus, emphasizing that the answer to unraveling the complexity of lupus and finding new treatments lies within “each one of us” – including people with lupus, researchers, and donors. Winners of So You Think You Can Dance first dance-crew battle, and founded by Emmy nominee Chloe Arnold, Syncopated Ladies performed to Selena’s song “Dance Again.”

Philanthropist Michael R. Bloomberg noted that he has long supported the work of the LRA and underscored his admiration for his close friend, Board member Jennie DeScherer, for handling her lupus experience with grace and determination. Super Bowl Champion and LRA Board member, Willie Colon, spoke movingly of his mom’s lifelong struggle with lupus which started with a stroke when he was six and ended this summer. “I credit her with being so tough through it all. My hope is that we find a cure.”

Sending a warm message of congratulations, Senator Mitt Romney and his wife Ann introduced the Lupus Research 2020 Virtual Fundraising Event honorees Jenny and Spencer Zwick. Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Solamere Capital LLC and member of the LRA Board of Directors, Spencer Zwick noted, “Lupus impacts every day of Jenny’s life. Being a part of an organization that is continuing to make progress toward a cure is unique – not every organization can say that.”

Teenager Aaliya Qassim described her journey with lupus that began when she was nine. “Not being able to be out in the sunlight, not being able to cultivate my soccer skills because I was sitting in a wheelchair.” She thanks her uncle Nadeem Meghji, Senior Managing Director, and Head of Real Estate Americas at Blackstone for starting the family down the path of lupus advocacy when she was first diagnosed. About the LRA, Aaliya says, “just knowing there are people supporting us and that there’s research in the works, means that we can do anything!”

Hosting the program was Willie Geist, long-time friend of the LRA and host of NBC’s Sunday Today with Willie Geist and MSNBC’s show Morning Joe. Board member, and Emmy-winning newscaster Brenda Blackmon narrated a dramatic segment demonstrating the LRA’s leadership in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic on behalf of the lupus community. To shine a spotlight on the disease and the need for lupus research, the Empire State Building lit up with LRA colors – purple and red – last week.

LRA President and CEO Kenneth M. Farber expressed appreciation for every supporter participating in this virtual fundraising event and throughout the year. “We are so fortunate to have had so many top performers dedicate their time and talent to make this event such a success. It was also exciting to see thousands worldwide join us in recognizing extraordinary members of the lupus community whose strength is incredibly inspiring. During such a difficult year, the overwhelming generosity of so many supporters underscores how critically important lupus research is to the people we serve.”

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