Tony Award Recognizes Actress for Work as PF Advocate

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by Mary Chapman |

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Julie Halston, a Broadway theater veteran and comedian, has received the 2020 Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award for her longtime volunteer efforts for the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation (PFF).

Halston, who is part of the PFF board, has raised more than $2 million for the organization. She also helped to bring global attention to pulmonary fibrosis (PF) through the PFF’s annual “Broadway Belts for PFF!” gala, beginning with its conception.

“Julie Halston is a treasure — she’s a creative force and an extraordinarily generous advocate for those with this life-threatening and under-recognized disease,” William T. Schmidt, the PFF’s president and CEO, said in a press release issued prior to the awards ceremony.

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“Her brainchild, Broadway Belts for PFF!, has become the PFF’s single largest fundraising event. We are so thrilled Julie is receiving the Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award and we are truly grateful for all that she’s done for our community,” Schmidt said.

The Tony Awards are Broadway’s equivalent of the Academy Awards, and the American theater’s most widely recognized prize. The Isabelle Stevenson award honors a longtime president of the American Theater Wing by recognizing the volunteer contributions of a theater community member to humanitarian, social service, or charitable organizations.

“Broadway Belts for PFF!,” now in its 11th year, brings together a bevy of Broadway stars and other celebrities for an evening of music, comedy, and performance. The event was created in 2010 by Halston and her husband, Ralph Howard, as a tribute to the theater critic Michael Kuchwara, who died of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis that year.

Howard, a longtime newscaster, also had PF and died of disease complications in 2018.

To date, more than 75 celebrities have participated in “Broadway Belts for PFF!,” including Liza Minnelli, Stephanie Mills, and Daveed Diggs. Bernadette Peters performed in the event’s 10-year celebration. In 2018, some cast members of “Hairspray” were featured in a sold-out show.

“PF is a terrible disease and there is no known cure yet, but there is hope,” Halston said. “I am overwhelmed with gratitude for this award, and I want to thank all of the Broadway celebrities who have shared their gifts to benefit this vital cause.”

Halston’s performance credits include “Tootsie,” “You Can’t Take it With You,” “Anything Goes,” “Sex and the City,” “Gypsy,” and “Hairspray.” She will soon appear in the off-Broadway production “Fairycakes” and on television with “Sex and the City” and “Gossip Girl” reboots.

More than 200,000 people in the U.S. are thought to have PF. The nonprofit PFF works to support them through education, advocacy, and by funding research.

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