Dinner of Champions
Dinners of Champions are fundraising events for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, which began in 1972 when Gulf+Western (now Paramount Communications) chairman Martin Davis and ABC sportscaster Frank Gifford organized such an event for the New York City Chapter. Now, more than 37 years later they are held annually in more than thirty chapters around the country.
The format is essentially the same in each case: a high-ticket dinner in the city's premier hotel, with a tribute journal to provide additional fundraising opportunities. The honoree is someone who epitomizes a commitment to excellence in his or her professional and personal life, and who understands and is willing to support the Chapter's purpose in holding the dinner.
The Southern California Chapter held its first dinner in 1973 when, under the chairmanship of Merlin Olsen, it roasted Howard Cosell. Because of the Olsen connection, the dinners featured athletes as entertainers as well as honorees.
In 1980, the Chapter changed its format somewhat and honored entertainer Andy Williams on the occasion of his silver anniversary in television. Honorees since have included such distinguished individuals as: Steven Hilton; Peter Chernin; Joe Roth; Bill Mechanic; Amy Pascal; Jim Gianopulos; Sir Howard Stringer; Bob & Harvey Weinstein; Tom Rothman; Michael Lynton; Rob Moore.
Entertainment for these events is always donated and has been provided by many of the top names in the industry - Bob Hope, Andy Williams, Paul Anka, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Wayne Newton, Luciano Pavarotti, Paul Reiser, Rosie O'Donnell, Sinbad, Whitney Houston, Jon Bon Jovi, Mariah Carey, Heart, The Bangles, Reba McEntire, Charlotte Church, Mya, John Williams and his Orchestra, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, The Pointer Sisters and most recently James Blunt. The guest list includes many of Los Angeles’ top corporate and entertainment industry names.
Since 1993 the Dinner has been chaired by Tom Sherak, National MS Society Board Trustee and current president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and supported heavily by the entertainment industry. Under Tom’s leadership $39 million has been raised for MS research and programs and our event has been ranked the most successful Dinner of Champions ever held by any chapter in the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s history!
MS stops people from moving. The National MS Society exists to make sure it doesn’t. We help each person address the challenges of living with MS. Proceeds from the Dinner support direct chapter-based programs including counseling, equipment assistance, transportation, respite care, employment education, physical activity programs, direct financial assistance, as well as the Marilyn Hilton MS Achievement Center at UCLA.
A substantial percentage of funds also support local and national research. The Society spends $45 million annually including over $9 million in force locally at UCLA, USC, Loma Linda University and the Brentwood Biomedical Research Center - to support more than 440 new and ongoing research projects to speed our progress in finding more and better treatments and ultimately a cure!