Moffitt’s Magnolia Ball Raises Record $5.3 Million for Cancer Research

By Jonesa Rodriguez - February 20, 2024

There was a good feeling over the crowd at Moffitt Cancer Center’s 29th annual Magnolia Ball. More than 700 attendees filled the ballroom of the JW Marriott Tampa Water Street and raised $5.3 million for revolutionary cancer research, treatment and care.

The event opened with a special performance by country music star Billy Dean and Moffitt’s very own band, The ReMissions. Staying true to the Magnolia Ball tradition, guests met cancer survivor Dr. Greg Sawyer – who also is Moffitt’s first chief bioengineering officer. Before joining the cancer center, Sawyer was a mechanical engineer with a focus on the space environment. When he was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic melanoma in 2013, he wanted to find a way to contribute to cancer research by harnessing his love for engineering. His expertise in 3D modeling and high-resolution imaging allows him to quickly reproduce tumors and allow real-time testing of therapeutics. It’s why Moffitt recruited him in 2023 to lead the new Bioengineering Department.

Dr. Greg Sawyer thanks the Magnolia Ball crowd for their support
Dr. Greg Sawyer thanked the crowd at the Magnolia Ball for their continuous support of Moffitt.

Sawyer, with his family, took the stage to express his gratitude to Moffitt, thanking everyone in the room for their continuous support of the cancer center.

For the past 29 years, the Magnolia Ball, Moffitt’s signature event, has raised millions for innovative cancer research to help patients like Sawyer, who is now cancer free. And this year’s event was no different thanks to generous supporters like Ted and Marty Couch, whose donation kicked off the Rise to the Challenge fundraising.

“Every year, I’m continually astounded by the overwhelming support we receive for the Magnolia Ball. Thanks to the selfless generosity of our donors, the lifesaving advancements at Moffitt have become a reality,” said Maria Muller, president of Moffitt’s Foundation.

Guests at the black-tie event, which was chaired by Mark and Cindy Pentecost, got the chance to bid on items in a live and silent auction. These items included four tickets to the 2025 Super Bowl, a five-day getaway for two to Aurora, Anguilla, a dinner package from The Capital Grille, and a Taylor Swift autographed album and photo.

The party with a purpose continued with a live performance by Flo Rida. Guests hit the dance floor as the rapper performed classic hits including “Low” and “Good Feeling.” The dancing didn’t stop there as guests headed over to a Magnolia Ball favorite, the afterparty featuring DJ Fresh.

“I extend my heartfelt gratitude to all who joined us in celebration. This year, we exceeded our fundraising target, setting a new record,” Muller said. “It highlights Moffitt’s profound influence on the community and reaffirms everyone’s dedication to the mission of preventing and curing cancer.”

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