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Our Eighth Annual FIGHT C. DIFF Gala

On Friday, November 3rd, the Peggy Lillis Foundation (PLF) hosted its Eighth Annual FIGHT C. DIFF Gala in Brooklyn, New York. Through the generosity of over 230 guests and sponsors, we raised a record $85,000 to support PLF’s mission of building a nationwide movement to fight C. diff infections (CDIs) by educating the public, empowering advocates and shaping policy.

Now in our eighth year, we are so proud of the accomplishments we have made in Peggy’s memory. Board President and Peggy’s son, Liam Lillis, talked the audience through some of the tremendous strides we’ve made in creating a national conversation around C. diff and the need for better interventions. So much has changed since the day he and Christian took Peggy to the hospital for what they thought was probably just the flu. In that time:

  • C. diff has been recognized as an urgent threat to public health
  • Research has increased substantially uncovering how gut microbiome changes often precipitate C. diff infections and how to treat them
  • We have more effective diagnostic and treatment options today as well as new preventatives and therapies in the pipeline
  • The federal government is paying more attention to C. diff. We’re seeing this through new research, antibiotic stewardship programs and reporting requirements.

Liam Lillis giving his welcome speech.

We were proud to present the first award of the night, the Innovators Award, to St. Joseph Hospital of Denver, Colorado. St. Joseph has introduced innovative campaigns to reduce C. diff infection rates, including a hand hygiene campaign, educational videos, lab simulation exercises, improved environmental cleaning efforts, and a program to reduce C. diff infections in Cystic Fibrosis patients specifically. Overall, in 2017, when compared to the previous year, St. Joseph Hospital is seeing 30% less hospital-acquired C. diff infections. Helen Beigel, Peggy’s sister and PLF board member, presented the award to St. Joseph representatives Laura Hart and Lillian Donnelly.

Christian Lillis, Laura Hart, Lillian Donnelly, Helen Beigel and Liam Lillis.

Christian introduced the evening’s second honoree: Dr. Carl Flatley. Carl, founder and President of the Sepsis Alliance, accepted our Advocates Award with a truly moving speech about his daughter Erin, who passed away from sepsis at the age of 23. Carl shared that as Erin was dying, she looked at him and her expression pleaded, “Dad, why can’t you do something?” The room was moved to tears, and Carl received a standing ovation as he said that this award made him feel that he had done something—just as his daughter asked.


Carl Flatley giving his Advocate Award acceptance speech.

Our third and final award of the night, the Leadership Award, was presented to Dr. L. Clifford McDonald—affectionately known as “C. diff Cliff” by many patient advocates. As author and co-author of more than 100 peer-reviewed publications, Dr. McDonald continues to champion and influence a generation of researchers, public health officials and clinicians on how to approach, treat and prevent infectious disease in our communities. Vincent Perrone, Director of Communications for Synthetic Biologics, presented the award

Dr. L. Clifford McDonald accepting the Leadership Award.

Towards the end of the night, Christian unveiled our most ambitious project to date: Make C. diff Count. We will build a coalition of patient advocates, professional associations, and other stakeholders to lobby the federal government and relevant medical and professional societies to require that death certificates specify C. diff and other infections as the primary or a contributing cause of death.

We asked C. diff survivors and family members to stand with us to make C. diff count, by recording testimonials, signing petitions and raising awareness of the campaign in the media. We also shared a sneak peek video promoting the campaign, available on YouTube here.

Gala guests on the dance floor.

Though our Gala always has an emotional theme, it was still great fun for our guests who danced to the musical selections of DJ Colleen Crumbcake, and bet on an array of raffle prizes donated by our supporters, friends and family. Our friend John Chan captured the magic of the evening with his brilliant photography, and Jason Rea and WorldStage provided beautiful lighting design throughout the night.

A Gala guest enjoying himself!

We are deeply grateful to the evening’s sponsors, including our Lead sponsor, Synthetic Biologics and our Supporting sponsors, Merck, Sanofi Pasteur, and Seres Therapeutics. We’re also grateful for our Angel sponsors, Cepheid and Rebiotix, as well as more than 30 other friends, family and companies. A full list of sponsors and raffle prize donors is available in our 2017 Gala Journal. You can also look at many more photos from the Gala on our Facebook page.

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