Writer: Yerelyn Cortez Hidalgo


On Thursday, May 4th The Diabetes Research Institute Foundation held the Dreams in the City Fundraiser at Cipriani 25 Broadway in Downtown Manhattan for Diabetes research.


The elegant-fundraising NYC event honored the Besner family and benefits the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI), which is dedicated to curing diabetes.


Event Co-Chairs Samantha Shanken Baker, Bonnie Inserra, Meryl Lieberman, and Susan Weiner along with Young Professionals' Chair, Lindsey Inserra-Hughes welcomed more than 400 attendees from metropolitan New York’s business, social, and celebrity circles. 

Diabetes Research Institute Foundation

DREAMS in the City Gala at Cipriani Aims to Bring Vision of Diabetes Cure Closer to Reality

Photo Credit:LUXXELIVING

The evening began with a cocktail reception which included hors d'oeuvres and a silent auction where guests were able to bid on an array of options. The location was the beautiful New York City landmark Cipriani Building at 25 Broadway in the Financial District which features inlaid floors, marble columns, magnificent murals and soaring 65-foot-high ceilings.


Some noted attendees included Billy Blanks Jr. who is the face for the new generation of fitness. He is a certified professional known for designing feel good fitness programs that make working out fun. Another known attendee was Tariq Luqmaan Trotter better known as Black Thought who is an American artist and the lead MC of the Philadelphia-based hip-hop group The Roots.


Following the reception, guests were welcomed to the dinner portion of the evening with Master of Ceremonies Chris Wragge. Chris is Co-Anchor of CBS 2 News This Morning and CBS 2 News at Noon.  Chris praised all of the sponsors who made the evening possible, and called out for a special mention to the 50-Carat Sponsor, The Inserra Family. Samantha paid tribute to her co-chair colleagues, whose tireless efforts made the evening possible:  Bonnie Inserra, Meryl Lieberman, Susan Weiner and Young Professionals’ Chair Lindsey Inserra-Hughes. Chris is an avid supporter of various non-profit organizations and supports different events as Master of Ceremonies or as a Host both in Manhattan and the Hamptons during the summer. 


This is the 7th year The Diabetes Institute Research Foundation has held the Dreams event, which, over a decade has raised nearly $7 million for the cure-focused research of the DRI.


DRI immunologist Dr. Allison Bayer, this year's proud recipient of the Marc. S. Goodman Prize for Outstanding Young Scientists, spoke about her work.  She said "The DRI has pioneered a technology known as islet transplantation, a procedure that replaces insulin–producing cells to normalize blood sugars. The DRI has had great success in getting people off daily insulin injections; some for more than 10 years.  The need for life-long use of powerful anti-rejection drugs has limited those who can participate to the most severe cases.  Now, the DRI is doing everything possible to eliminate these drugs, re-educate the immune system and offer cell replacement to all who can benefit."


​DRI Foundation President and CEO Josh Rednik was next up and introduced The Besner Family, whom are positively and actively working on a cure.  15-Year old Willa Besner was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of four.  These days, Willa and sister Lana counsel others young children with Diabetes.  The family has been involved for years with the DRI Foundation; first through Carnival for a Cure and through Dad Greg’s participation on their Northeast Board.  In 2012, The Besners established Willa’s Wish Foundation. The DRIF has been a grateful beneficiary, directly and through The Besners’ annual Cocktails for a Cure event.


Next was Willa Besner who made a beautiful speech, in which she pointed out that diabetes never takes a day off.  She indicated how little it takes for something to go wrong and she said her heart breaks when she thinks about others throughout the world who go through what she does.  She said how grateful she is to the DRI for its research, and she thanked her family for taking care of her.  Willa said that they have taught her well, and she can take it from here; touching words which caused guests to burst into loud and sustained applause.


Willa’s Mom, Leslie, then introduced a very emotional video, in which a group of youngsters, Willa included, spoke about what a typical day with diabetes is like.  Together, they sang a song, the refrain of which was, “A little bit longer and I’ll be fine.”  As the house lights rose, those terrific kids finished the song live, in front of the crowd and Asher, Brielle, Eden, Ella, Holden, Kelly, Willa and Zoe received a well-deserved standing ovation.


Chris Wragge encouraged the audience to respond with an outpouring of fundraising support, ignited by a matching gift challenge of $25,000 from the Stacy Joy Goodman Memorial Foundation and that challenge was answered affirmatively.  Donors were encouraged to don blue bracelets and the room was soon enveloped in a sea of blue.

Following the program, guests enjoyed dinner, followed by dancing to the fantastic music of The Jay Prince Band.  Guests also partook of a dessert bar set in a lounge area. 






















​​About the Diabetes Research Institute and Foundation:
The mission of the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation is to provide the Diabetes Research Institute with the funding necessary to cure diabetes now. The Diabetes Research Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine leads the world in cure-focused research. As the largest and most comprehensive research center dedicated to curing diabetes, the DRI is aggressively working to develop a biological cure by restoring natural insulin production and normalizing blood sugar levels without imposing other risks. Researchers have already shown that transplanted islet cells allow patients to live without the need for insulin therapy. Some study participants have maintained insulin independence for more than 10 years. The DRI is now building upon these promising outcomes by developing a DRI BioHub, a bioengineered “mini organ” that mimics the native pancreas. While various BioHub platforms are being tested in preclinical and clinical studies, the DRI is also developing strategies to eliminate the need for anti-rejection drugs and reset the immune system to block autoimmunity. For more information, please visit DiabetesResearch.org, tweet @Diabetes_DRI or call 212-888-2217.