Global Lyme Alliance Holds Cipriani Gala Dinner

Lynn Scotti, Lawrence Scott and Rosanna Scotto – Photo Lieba Nesis

The Global Lyme Alliance (GLA) held its annual gala on Thursday, October 12th, 2023, at Cipriani 42nd Street with cocktails at this business-attired event beginning at 6 PM. According to the CDC, more than 500,000 Lyme disease cases are diagnosed yearly. The GLA, the leading nonprofit founded in 1998, seeks to fill the vacuum in the medical community needing more funding to eradicate the disease effectively.

This elegant dinner is uplifting and lugubrious as the sensational crowd comprises those whose lives have been devastated by this harrowing disease. Justin Bieber, Shania Twain, Bella Hadid, Avril Lavigne, Alec Baldwin, and Riley Keough are a small sampling of luminaries who have been outspoken sufferers.

Dolores Catania, Paul Connell – Photo by Lieba Nesis

The evening’s honorees included Kenzie Vath, Christopher Meloni, and Karen Kelly. Event planner extraordinaire and society fixture Lawrence Scott donates his services to the event each year, consisting of impeccably decorated tables and delectable food such as sea bass and filet mignon.

Jean Shafiroff – Photo by Lieba Nesis

Good Day New York co-host Rosanna Scotto is another fixture at this annual dinner as she noted the dearth of funding for Lyme-related research. Fellow television star Chris Meloni described his wife and kids’ struggle with Lyme, which began 5 years ago. Meloni said the nightmare was akin to losing one’s family as the people he once knew were no longer there.

Nicole Miller, Alisa Roever – Photo by Lieba Nesis

Chris said it wasn’t until he was in touch with GLA during the third year of the disease that the tide began to turn. He alarmingly remarked that those with Lyme have a 75% higher risk of suicide as its effects are both mental and physical.

Lieba Nesis with actor Chris Meloni

Admitting that a post-Covid world was a bit more tolerant of chronic, acute diseases, he was also hopeful as he was reminded of how Polio was cured through the effective use of vaccines in the 1950s and 1960s. Quoting the vaccine inventor Jonas Salk’ who said, “I have had dreams, and I have nightmares, but I have conquered my nightmares because of my dreams,”- Chris was in this struggle for the long haul.

The days of vaccine inventors who choose not to patent a vaccine or seek any profit to maximize distribution – as was the case with Salk are gone. Before he died in 1995 at 80, Salk unsuccessfully sought a vaccine for HIV.

Bob Kelly – Photo by Lieba Nesis

Another Lyme sufferer, Bob Kelly, who was diagnosed in 2016 and continues to endure chronic symptoms, remarked that he was having trouble holding onto the podium for fear he might fall. He told me he could not remember his medications due to Lyme’s extreme brain fog. Bob praised his wife Karen for her courage and resilience and awarded her the Kelly Hero Award for her unrelenting search for answers.

Karen Kelly – Photo by Lieba Nesis

Despite Karen being lauded as a hero, she remarked most days, she feels like a “helpless loser” as she struggles for therapeutics. Karen recalled the up-and-down cycle of Lyme sufferers with her husband feeling better and then suddenly relapsing. She noted that while chronic Lyme was incurable, without the help of GLA, her husband would not be alive.

Timothy Sellati, Doug Bryant – Photo by Lieba Nesis

Some other heroes in the crowd included Doug Bryant, CEO and President of Quidel Ortho, a prominent American manufacturer of diagnostic healthcare products with 6,500 employees. Quidel is the only company to manufacture a 15-minute Lyme test that allows results with a single prick of blood. Developed 5 years ago, this test has been a game changer as most tests take several days to achieve results, at which time Lyme can advance. The trick with this disease is catching it early.

Quidel was also the first to produce accurate COVID tests after having the antibodies for SARS-1 stored in an Ohio freezer. Two months later, the world could contain COVID-19 thanks to accurate diagnosis. Respiratory diseases are the specialty of Quidel, with Bryant noting they appear to be on the ascendancy.

After a live auction where dinner for 8 at the celebrated Rao’s on a Thursday night went for $32,000, guests heard from honoree Kenzie Vath, who tearfully thanked her mother for saving her life. Vath’s Lyme was so severe that doctors told her she could not have children – while she currently has 3. After saying her Lyme struggle left her feeling “unknown, invisible, and ignored,” her current status as a Lyme warrior allowed her to live her best life.

Debbie Gibson – Photo by Lieba Nesis

The evening concluded at 9 PM with the finale of singer and Lyme sufferer Debbie Gibson wowing the crowd with old hits such as “Mama Mia .” Gibson, who has sold more than 16 million albums over the past 35 years of her career, looked svelte and healthy and patiently posed for pictures on the red carpet.

Some Jersey Housewives, including the effervescently elegant Dolores Catania and Margaret Josephs, were in the crowd. Catania is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and outspoken advocate for animal rights. As guests headed home, they were handed some sweet treats and Kenzie Vath’s informative book “The Ignored Pandemic: Real Stories of Lyme Disease.”

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Lieba Nesis

My love of fashion, writing and photography were something that always dominated my lifestyle however it wasn't until I was approached by the editor of Lookonline that I realized I could utilize these three skills in combination.

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