This year’s edition of Broadway Belts For PFF! — a benefit event for the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation (PFF) — raised a record $400,000 to help fund pulmonary fibrosis (PF) research and patient programs.
The evening of music, comedy, and performances at New York’s Edison Ballroom was hosted by Broadway stalwart and PFF supporter Julie Halston (Broadway’s Tootsie). About 250 people attended the Feb. 25 event.
The largest single fundraiser for the PFF, the gala featured stars including New York Yankees legend and Grammy-nominated guitarist Bernie Williams, whose father died of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).
The event also featured Lilli Cooper (Broadway’s Tootsie, Spongebob Squarepants), Robert Creighton (Broadway’s Frozen; Cagney), Ariana DeBose (Tony nominee for Summer; Hamilton), Santino Fontana (Tony nominee for Cinderella; Tootsie), Julie Gold (Grammy winner), Jenny Laroche (Broadway’s Summer), Patti Murin (Broadway’s Frozen), Brad Oscar (Tony nominee for Something Rotten and The Producers), and Mary Testa (Tony nominee for On the Town and 42nd Street).
Directed by Carl Andress, Broadway Belts For PFF! was created in 2010 by Halston and her husband, Ralph Howard, in honor of acclaimed theater critic Michael Kuchwara, who died from IPF. Howard was subsequently diagnosed with PF. The longtime newscaster died in 2018 after getting a life-extending lung transplant.
“I am beyond grateful to my incredibly talented and generous friends for performing with me to raise funds for a cause that is so near and dear to my heart,” Halston said in a news release. “The tireless work of the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation is leading the way toward a cure for this terrible disease.”
Doug and Gay Lane were presented with the newly established Ralph Howard Legacy Award for their devotion to the PF community.
The event “not only provides funding for the PFF’s programs and research, but it also raises the profile of our cause,” said William Schmidt, PFF president and chief executive officer. “Thanks to Julie Halston, the cast and crew of Broadway Belts, we are getting closer to a world without pulmonary fibrosis.”
Last year, the event generated $350,000. With this year’s total, the amount raised since the event’s inception comes to some $1.6 million.
According to the PFF, more than 200,000 people in the U.S. have PF, which causes progressive lung scarring. Some 50,000 new cases are diagnosed annually.
Collaborating with physicians, organizations, patients, and caregivers globally, the PFF provides patient access to high-quality care, and leads research for a PF cure.