Several broadway artists have once again joined the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation’s (PFF) mission and showed off their “belting” talent in order to raise awareness and funding to support the fight against pulmonary fibrosis (PF) at the fifth edition of the Broadway Belts for PFF! The annual event, which took place last Monday at the Birdland Jazz Club, was hosted by award-winning actress and PFF advocate Julie Halston and raised over $150,000 for the foundation.
Broadway Belts for PFF! gathered artists, advocates and PF community members to support research working on a cure for this progressive and currently incurable disease that causes scarring of the lung tissue. Joining Halston were Broadway stars Santino Fontana (Cinderella), Julia Murney (Wicked), Tony Award-winner Randy Graff (City of Angels), Annaleigh Ashford (Kinky Boots You Can’t Take It With You), Erich Bergen (Jersey Boys film TV’s Madam Secretary), Robert Creighton (The Mystery of Edwin Drood), Zakiya Young (Stick Fly The Little Mermaid) and Betsy Wolfe (Bullets Over Broadway/The Mystery of Edwin Drood).
The artists showed off their singing talents in a performance under the musical direction of Christopher McGovern and Carl Andress, who were the directors of all the past Broadway Belts for PFF! editions. Halston, who recently featured the Broadway show “You Can’t Take it With You” hosted the event for the fifth time, featuring a humorous performance but focused on the burden of the disease.
“I want everyone to know about the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation so that no one living with this terrible disease has to go through it alone” said Halston in a press release from PFF. “My husband and I started this benefit five years ago to remember our friend Michael and we hope the awareness and money raised brings us closer to a cure.”
Broadway Belts for PFF! was created in 2011 to honor Associated Press theater critic and reporter Michael Kuchwara, who died in 2010 due to complications related to idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) after a 25-year career of critiques and reviews of the North American theater. Kuchwara was also a friend of Julie Halston, who became a leading spokesperson of the foundation, since her husband broadcaster Ralph Howard also suffers from IPF and needed a lung transplant at the time of Kuchwara’s death.
“We are incredibly grateful to our dear friends Julie Halston, D. Michael Dvorchak, Ed Windells, Trisha Henson and Sue Frost for the time and talent they put into this year’s event,” added the president and CEO of PFF, Patti Tuomey. “The show always features such amazing talent and in five years has contributed more than $387000 to the pulmonary fibrosis community. It’s this type of dedication and effort from the PF community that will help us fund research towards a cure for pulmonary fibrosis.”
The funds raised during the event are going to be invested in the PFF’s Michael Kuchwara Fund for Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis Research Education and Advocacy. The foundation supports numerous projects, and just recently added 12 new sites to its PFF Care Center Network, which was launched in 2013 to accredit leading medical centers particularly dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of PF. With the expansion of the network there are now 21 centers distributed across 20 U.S. states with a specialty in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).