13 Apr Pink Ball 2014 Report
Friday, March 7, 2014 at The Westin Tokyo
By Mike de Jong
To the strains of Verdi’s classic opera La Traviata and the boom of taiko drums, Pink Ball guests enjoyed a thrilling “Music of the Night” this year at The Westin Tokyo. Arias filled the ballroom, performed by The Opera Singers, a group of talented Japanese professional vocalists who serenaded guests in their seats before taking the stage.
Earlier, the Tenrin Daiko drummers captivated the audience with their theatrics, coming all the way from Nagoya to demonstrate their art.
In all, it was a great night for the 250 people who attended, helping raise money and awareness in the fight against breast cancer as a life-threatening disease.
Another highlight was the southern Italian cuisine – homemade ravioli, black pork rolls with stewed sausages and swordfish cooked in herbs and almonds – created to perfection by executive chef Germano Orsara and master chef Costantino Gemmoli at Elio Locanda Italiana in Tokyo.
“I think that the best gift that we got is to share something with others,” says restaurant owner Elio Orsara, who donated the hors d’oeuvres in the Star Junior ballroom. Orsara’s own family has been touched by cancer.
“As an Italian, I know that Japanese women are shy to get checked [for breast cancer]. So I think my contribution is to get people who are shy to do something about it.”
Fellow Italian Giovanni Graziano – a mozzarella Casaro [master] – also entertained, conducting a demonstration in Old World-style cheese-making. Graziano, who learned his secret style from his father in Calabria, was visiting Japan for the first time.
While enjoying the food, music and entertainment, Pink Ball attendees never lost sight of the real purpose of the event: to wipe out a killer disease. Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among women worldwide according to the American Cancer Society and, although tremendous strides have been made in screening and treatment, the fight is a long way from over according to Run for the Cure® Foundation founder and chairman Vickie Paradise Green.
“In the time I’ll be speaking to you this evening, 10 more women will be diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Green in her keynote address. “Five more will lose their battles. One woman every minute.”
Green pointed out that with early detection and selection of the most advanced therapies, survival rates for women have improved dramatically. However, not in Japan, where less than 25% of women have annual mammograms. In the Unites States, that number is 85%.
“In the last 50 years the mortality rate from breast cancer in Japan has increased more than 7.5 times,” she added. “Ten years ago the risk to a Japanese woman being diagnosed with breast cancer during her lifetime was one in 30. Today that risk has doubled to one in 14.”
Since its inception in 2003, Run for the Cure® Foundation has done its part. Its purchase of six mammography machines has resulted in more than 18,000 Japanese women being screened at clinics across the country. More than 1,300 of those women had suspicious findings.
“Because of your support, many of the women who received an early diagnosis are survivors today,” said Green.
The purchase of mammography machines and other equipment couldn’t happen without the generosity of Pink Ball guests. Thanks to donations, raffle, and live and silent auctions, this year’s event raised about ¥14,000,000. A record number of sponsors did their part, including Bloomberg, Aflac International, CBRE, S.T. Dupont, Swarovski Japan and Coca-Cola Japan.
Staff at Coke bought an entire table.
“We just feel that every single individual can relate to this,” says Michael Coombs, CFO of Coca-Cola Japan. “Someone in your family or one of your friends or an acquaintance has been affected at some point. So it’s something that everyone can connect with.”
“I’m here to support the spread of the word in Japan,” says Theodore Seltzer, a partner at Morrison & Foerster. “It’s a great cause, and hopefully we’ll raise funds and awareness for women in Japan.”
“My mother was concerned with the disease,” says Vincent Nelias, managing director of Swarovski. “We support multiple causes, but this one touched me specifically because of my mother. Gladly, she is still alive.”
A distinguished guest at this year’s Pink Ball was Hans Dietmar Schweisgut, Ambassador to the Delegation of the European Union in Japan. He also believes that raising awareness is vital in the fight against breast cancer.
“I agree. It’s sometimes overlooked. We talk about many things, but I think it’s important to have these events to raise awareness to a point where people realize that this is something that we have to do so much more.”
For the second straight year, Run for the Cure® Foundation announced its Unknown Hero – a person honored for their courage and perseverance in fighting breast cancer. This year’s honoree, Kyoko Abe, helped establish Japan’s first university program to train and certify breast cancer nurses at Chiba University’s Graduate School of Nursing. Since 2005, about 250 students have gone through the program.
Abe told PiNK that although her work is difficult, she gets strength and courage from patients and their families. She added that women should never give up the fight.
“Do not be afraid. You can survive,” said Abe. “The Japanese medical system for breast cancer is very good. But early detection is so important – and early nursing care.”