vince vaughnSANTA MONICA, CA (March 25, 2017) – Internationally recognized medical oncologist Steven J. O’Day, MD, was honored with the “The Duke” Special Service Award and multi-award-winning actor, producer and screenwriter Vince Vaughn with the “True Grit” Humanitarian Award at the 32nd annual Odyssey Ball, tonight, Saturday, March 25th at the Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire Hotel, Beverly Hills. The Best is Yet to Come casino-themed fundraiser benefits the John Wayne Cancer Institute (JWCI) at Providence Saint John’s Health Center.

To open the evening, more than 500 guests were treated to a performance by Southern California’s own four-part harmony quartet, The Moonrays, before turning the stage over to multi-talented writer-actor-producer and performer, the evening’s host, Bobby Herbeck, creator of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles phenomenon. A long-time supporter of The John Wayne Cancer Institute, Herbeck extolled the accomplishments of the Institute since its formation in 1981 before introducing John Wayne Cancer Institute Auxiliary president and granddaughter of the iconic actor, Anita Swift.

Swift spoke warmly of the formation of the Auxiliary, shortly after the Institute was founded, singling out the late Dr. Donald Morton and two of his patients, Sandy Cohen and Noreen Nelson, the driving forces behind what has grown into an 800-member organization.

Odyssey Ball Co-Chairs Martha Harper and Shirley Lipstone kicked off the eagerly awaited live auction and fundraising appeal with a check for $50,000 from long-time Auxiliary member and former honoree Ruth Weil.

A particularly moving tribute was made on behalf of two key members of the Auxiliary family who passed away recently; Jackie Banchik, a three-term Auxiliary president and Joyce Green, Dr. Donald Morton’s “right-hand woman” and founder of the JWCI development department. According to Swift, Banchik loved to say that “if you found a penny, it meant someone in heaven is thinking of you.” With that thought, guests’ tables were scattered with pennies in memory of both women.

In introducing her uncle and Chairman of the Board of the John Wayne Cancer Institute, Patrick Wayne, Swift noted that “back in the late 70’s, Patrick was offered the title role in the original Superman film, but turned it down because he wanted to help care for his father, John Wayne, as he battled cancer…and Patrick’s never stopped battling cancer. He is my Superman!”

Wayne went on to acknowledge the “many superheroes in the audience…true friends, doctors, colleagues and partners. “Our dedication,” he continued, “to clinical and translational research is absolute and we know we can’t fail with you by our side. We will not rest until cancer is history.”

Michael States, former Clinical Program Director for the former Wellness Community, now the Cancer Support Community Benjamin Center, celebrated the accomplishments of honoree Steven J. O’Day, MD, who knew early on how vital the psychological and emotional support for cancer patients and their families was to comprehensive cancer patient care. “He recognizes that a diagnosis of cancer is, in its truest form, a family diagnosis. While cancer is something that is happening in their lives, it does not define them. He is a crucible for their questions, their hopes and their fears.”

Jim Yoder, a Stage 4 melanoma survivor, spoke via video of his own personal experience with Dr. O’Day, referring to him as “more than my doctor. He is my quarterback. And believe me, if you’re in a tough game, he’s the guy you want calling the play.”

Daniel F. Kelly, John Wayne Cancer Institute Professor of Neuroscience & Neurosurgery and Director of the Brain Tumor Center & Pituitary Disorders Program at Providence Saint John’s Health Center presented “The
Duke” Special Service Award to Dr. O’Day, Professor of Medical Oncology, Director of Immuno-Oncology and Director of Clinical Research at the John Wayne Cancer Institute. He is recognized as one of the preeminent melanoma specialists in the world and has been at the forefront of new drug development in melanomas over the last two decades.

Nic Pizzolatto, award-winning Executive Producer and writer of HBO’s hit series True Detective presented the “True Grit” Humanitarian Award, established to recognize individuals who embody the American values that were characteristic of Duke Wayne, to actor-producer-writer Vince Vaughn. Dominating the screen in such hits as Wedding Crashers, The Lost World: Jurassic Park and, most recently, the Oscar nominated Hacksaw Ridge as well as True Detective, Pizzolatto heralded Vaughn’s philanthropic work with organizations ranging from Special Olympics to his ongoing dedication to working with veterans.

Additional personal tributes to the successes spawned by the John Wayne Cancer Institute were given by Auxiliary Board member Cyndi Hunt, recalling her own family’s multiple battles with cancer and Shelby and Jeff Nish, addressing the power of immunotherapy and how a person’s own antibodies can save lives.

About the John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center
Since 1981, the family of John Wayne has been committed to pioneering cancer research in memory of their father, who died of cancer. For more than 30 years, the courageous and dedicated researchers at the John Wayne Cancer Institute have made groundbreaking discoveries that have changed the way cancer is detected, diagnosed and treated around the world. Today the tradition of excellence continues as the Institute spearheads new research advances, while training the next generation of leaders in the fight against cancer through its renowned Surgical Oncology Fellowship Program. The Institute’s programs focus on melanoma, breast, neuro, prostate, lung, gynecological and gastrointestinal cancers, as well as innovative research in cancer genomics, molecular biomarkers, and chemo- and immunotherapies. With its unique ability to rapidly turn scientific discoveries into novel approaches for early detection and treatment, the Institute provides immediate hope to cancer patients everywhere.

About the John Wayne Cancer Institute Auxiliary
Established in 1982 by two breast cancer survivors, the John Wayne Cancer Institute Auxiliary is currently helmed by president Anita Swift, granddaughter of John Wayne. The Auxiliary has raised more than $19 million to fund a wide array of the Institute’s priorities including groundbreaking research, vital new laboratory equipment and the nationally renowned Surgical Oncology Fellowship Program, which trains the next generation of surgical oncologists. For more information, please visit