If laughter is the best medicine, actress, director and entertainer Goldie Hawn has been curing audience ills since 1968, when America fell in love with her on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. Now guests at The National Children’s Cancer Society’s (NCCS) annual International Humanitarian Award Dinner are due for a generous dose of her comedic charm. At the event, scheduled for Oct. 30 at the Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark, Hawn will give the keynote address (titled, appropriately enough, Laughter Is the Best Medicine) and receive NCCS’s Alvin K. Stolze International Humanitarian Award. “The award is given to individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership and advocacy on behalf of children and children’s health issues, as Ms. Hawn has with her support of children’s programs through the Hawn Foundation,” says committee chair Donna Wilkinson of The Wilkinson Group.

    NCCS, based in St. Louis, serves as a financial, emotional, educational and medical resource for children with cancer and their families worldwide. “The organization’s mission is to improve quality of life at every stage of the child’s illness and recovery,” Wilkinson says. “In the United States, NCCS eases the financial burdens that come with major illness, gives crucial support and comfort, and addresses the challenges of survivorship. Abroad, it provides lifesaving drugs, medical supplies and equipment to facilities that treat children with cancer.”

    Joining Hawn in the spotlight are honorees Scott MacLellan, CEO of Morrison Management Specialists, who will accept the Corporate Philanthropy Award; Dr. Timothy Ley, associate director for cancer genomics at Washington University Genome Center, who will accept the Innovation in Medical Research Award; Saint Louis Cord Blood Bank at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center, which will receive the Legacy Award; and Dr. Larry Shapiro, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of Washington University School of Medicine, who will receive the Medical Excellence Award.

    Event sponsors include Centene, Engelhardt Family Foundation, Morrison Management Specialists, SCA Direct, Anheuser-Busch and Ameren. In addition to the dinner and awards ceremony, the evening includes a reception with Hawn for VIP attendees. “Another highlight will be the unveiling of ‘Laffy Laffalot,’ an audio device that lets kids with cancer access 29 recorded laughs, as well as record and receive messages to and from family and friends,” Wilkinson says. “It’s a morale booster during those long hours in doctors’ offices and treatment centers.”

    Founded in 1987 to assist children who needed bone marrow transplants that weren’t covered by most insurance companies, NCCS has since expanded its services to encompass the needs of all children with cancer. Today, the organization works with more than 200 of the nation’s top pediatric facilities to give direct financial assistance to families, and distributes donated drugs and medical supplies internationally. Since its inception, NCCS has provided nearly $50 million to assist more than 26,000 children, reaching thousands more through educational programs and materials. The organization also helps educate families, survivors and health professionals on the full range of challenges associated with childhood cancer, its effects and aftermath, including how to get follow-up care, Wilkinson adds.

    “The International Humanitarian Award Dinner is NCCS’s largest fundraiser of the year, and we’re grateful to our home base of St. Louis for being so generous and committed to the cause,” she says. “Childhood cancer affects the entire family, and NCCS is always here to listen, offer support and suggest helpful resources. Most of all, we want these kids to live as fully as possible. Whether a child has just been diagnosed, is currently in treatment or completed treatment years ago, NCCS is here to help.”  

On the Cover: The National Children’s Cancer Society’s annual International Humanitarian Award Dinner takes place Saturday, Oct. 30, at Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark. NCCS, a St. Louis-based organization, provides financial assistance to families of children with cancer worldwide. Ticket prices start at $250. For more information, call Trish Collins at 446-5227 or visit children-cancer.org. Cover photo by Firooz Zahedi