Ten weeks, eighteen candidates, and a room full of winners

An underlying tone of friendly competition was woven throughout The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Man and Woman of the Year Grand Finale event at the JW Marriott in downtown Austin on Saturday, June 10, 2017. The fundraiser raised a total of $975,000 in support of The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s mission to cure leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma, and improve the quality of life for patients and their families.

This annual event marks the conclusion of 10 weeks of robust campaigning for the title of Man or Woman of the Year for the South Central Texas chapter of The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. “Tonight is the culmination of ten weeks of hard work,” said emcee Shannon Wolfson, a KXAN co-anchor, as she welcomed the room and announced the 2017 candidates to fierce applause from various corners of the room.

In line with the spirit of the evening, the evening program kicked off with a “Heads or Tails” competition open to all 600 audience members. Attendees were offered the opportunity to purchase chances to play in this engaging game where participants stood and put their hands either on their head or their “tail” before a coin was flipped. All who chose incorrectly sat down, while those who chose correctly continued standing for the next flip of the coin.

LLS Heads of Tails game photo by Vicky Pridgen

Benefit auctioneer Gayle Stallings led the activity and once the field of remaining competitors had narrowed down to just four individuals she invited them to join her on stage. Stallings then auctioned off a spot to join the “Heads or Tails” finalists on stage for a chance to continue playing and fundraised an additional $950 for the cause. The grand winner of the game was St. Stephen’s high school senior Thomas Waugh who was attending the event with his family in support of candidate Fayruz Benyousef.

Eighteen candidates were vying to be crowned Man and Woman of the year, titles earned by fundraising more than all of the other candidates. The winners were decided based on their success in generating funds for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society both during the 10-week campaign leading up to the Grand Finale and at the event itself.

Patrick Starley, managing partner and cofounder of Legacy Star Capital Partners, set a new fundraising record for Austin’s Man of the Year and brought in $153,850 while Anne Idsal, chief clerk and deputy land commissioner of the Texas General Land Office, raised $131,774 and slid ahead of the other candidates to be crowned Woman of the Year.  

As emcee Wolfson so aptly summed up: “That’s the spirit of competition that we love about this event… because everyone wins when cancer loses.” All in all, the campaign raised a record-breaking $975,000 to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Click here to learn more about the Man & Woman of the Year Campaign and visit The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s website for more on their work to find cures and ensure access to treatments for blood cancer patients. 


Photo caption: The stage at the Leukemia Lymphoma Society event. Guests playing “Heads of Tails,” a popular fundraising game. Thomas, T.C., Giselle, and Sophia Waugh were among the evening’s winners. Thomas won the competition, the family had winning bids on silent auction items, and their candidate, Fayruz Benyousef, was awarded Campaign Team of the Year.

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