February 14, 1997

Cancer research gets boost from Rockies event

Cancer research gets boost from Rockies event

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Dr. Harold Moses, director of the Vanderbilt Cancer Center, strums a guitar he bought at last year's Country in the Rockies event. He brought it back this year to add to his autograph collection.

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Attending Country in the Rockies were (from left) BMI's Roger Sovine, cancer patient Alison Chambers, Frances Williams Preston, CEO of BMI, and VUMC's Susan Holt.

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VUMC's Jennifer Pietenpol, Ph.D., with Henry Paul, lead singer of the country music group Blackhawk.

CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – Skiing under blue skies during the day and concerts with country music stars at night highlighted the third annual Country in the Rockies fund-raiser for the T.J. Martell Foundation for Leukemia, Cancer, and AIDS Research, the music business charity which funds the Frances Williams Preston Laboratories at the Vanderbilt Cancer Center.

The event was held Wednesday, Jan. 29 through Sunday, Feb. 2 at this Southwest Colorado mining town turned ski resort, and featured skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, and other cold-weather activities combined with the indoor pastime of enjoying performances by such popular country entertainers as Kathy Mattea, John Berry, Mindy McCready, Dave Gibson, Gary Morris, Hal Ketchum, Blackhawk, Lari White, Matt King, and others.

³People had a good time, and it¹s for a good cause,² said Dr. Harold L. Moses, B.F. Byrd Jr. Professor of Clinical Oncology, chair of Cell Biology and director of the Cancer Center. ³The funds will be used to support core laboratories for the Cancer Center and pilot projects for breast and prostate cancer, including gene therapy and other innovative therapies to treat and prevent cancer.²

Frances Williams Preston, chief executive officer of the music licensing company BMI, for whom the laboratory at VUMC is named, said, "This has been a wonderful event. All the talent participating have given of their time and effort, and we have twice as many people as last year."

Music, skiing, shopping

Most of those in attendance arrived Wednesday afternoon, in time to settle in and prepare for what was billed as a ³fireside guitar pull² that night. A ³pledge-for-request² system allowed the entertainment event to also serve as a fund-raiser, with about $2,500 pledged in return for favorite songs.

Qualifying for celebrity ski races was held Friday, with the races themselves held Saturday under clear skies at Mount Crested Butte, which has an elevation of more than 9,300 feet. The town of Crested Butte attracted people with its historic buildings ‹ many of which date from the 1800s ‹ along with fine restaurants and shopping. The ski race also raised $5,000 for the T. J. Martell Foundation when the team sponsored by George Dickel Distillery announced its sponsor would donate the sum if its team won. The Dickel team actually finished in eighth place (dead last), but the other teams "withdrew" afterward, giving the race to Dickel on a forfeit and gaining the money for the charity.

The town of Crested Butte was also the site for one of the most popular fund-raising events of the weekend, with two local bars, the Wooden Nickel and the Idle Spur, hosting a celebrity bartender night. The members of Blackhawk, Mindy McCready, Gary Morris, Matt King, John Berry, Kathy Mattea, and others tended bar for a couple of hours Thursday night, with all tips going to the Preston Laboratories. A good-natured rivalry developed between the entertainers at the Wooden Nickel and those at the Idle Spur, with the result being that, after a round of matching-funds one-upmanship, the total raised exceeded $6,000 ‹ more than double last year¹s bartending take.

Music fans were treated to another concert Friday night, with Kathy Mattea serving as host of the event. After performing several songs of her own, including some from her new album, Mattea brought out Mindy McCready, John Berry, and Blackhawk each of whom performed several songs in an intimate, informal setting.

The laid back nature of the event was evident at the cocktail receptions and dinners as well, as stars and participants shared meals and conversation.

Jennifer Pietenpol, Ph.D., assistant professor of Biochemistry, who was at Country in the Rockies for the first time, was busily trolling the Saturday cocktail reception, arms laden with CDs for performers to autograph. She also said she was collecting photographs of stars to post outside her laboratory in the Cancer Center.

"I've kind of gotten into it," she said with a laugh.

The cause

But while recreation in the form of both winter sports and the enjoyment of music were what attracted most of those in attendance, the cause the money will be used to support was frequently cited as well.

Henry Paul, lead singer of Blackhawk, paused between songs at the Friday concert to express the band's support of the Cancer Center.

"In the year since we were last here, we've had the opportunity to go to Vanderbilt and meet with Dr. Moses and his staff," he said. "This is worthwhile. They do really good work."

And performer Dave Gibson added his words of support: "I'm proud to be part of this, and I'm proud of all the people who have come out to support this great cause these past three years," he said.

At a brief speech at the Saturday award dinner, Moses offered his thanks to those in attendance.

"When I look around this room, it's gratifying to see all of you and know that one of the reasons you are here is to further the work of the Frances Williams Preston Laboratory at the Vanderbilt Cancer Center," he said.

"I speak for all of us at the Vanderbilt Cancer Center when I thank you for that support and tell you that I am confident that we are making very good use of your support. The money that is raised through Country in the Rockies and the T.J. Martell Foundation allows us to do important, life-saving work we would otherwise not be able to do."

Moses introduced Alison Chambers, the first recipient of gene therapy for ovarian cancer at VUMC, who spoke movingly to the group about her battle with cancer and the hope she has been given by the gene therapy research conducted at VUMC, which is funded by Martell Foundation money.

"I wanted to come here and thank every one of you," she said to the hushed crowd. "Without donors like yourselves, my life now never would have come about."

"You are the real reason we are here," Preston told Chambers. "You are an inspiration to all of us, and we expect you to be back year after year," she said.

Sponsors of Country in the Rockies included BMI, American Airlines, and the Crested Butte Mountain Resort.