SoutheastHEALTH Annual Journey Gala Goes to Morocco

November 02, 2017

The SoutheastHEALTH Foundation will host its Second Annual Journey Gala on Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018, at the Drury Plaza Conference Center in Cape Girardeau. Guests will be treated to an elaborately-themed “Midnight in Marrakesh,” along with a gourmet dinner, charity auctions and dancing to live music by Vote 4 Pedro. The cocktail attire, black tie optional event begins at 6 p.m.

The gala benefits the SoutheastHEALTH Cancer Care Fund, which makes the cancer journey less stressful for those in need of urgent assistance during the course of their treatment. “There are so many needs for our friends and neighbors battling cancer,” said SoutheastHEALTH Foundation Executive Director Patti Ranzini. “Each year the Foundation provides funding for transportation needs for patients, many of whom make daily trips to the Southeast Cancer Center, along with lodging, nutritional supplements, pharmaceuticals, utility bills, rent and other unmet needs.” She noted last year’s inaugural gala raised more than $150,000 to provide compassionate support to patients and families.

Jennifer Icaza-Gast and Anita Drury are once again serving as co-chairs for the gala. “Cancer has touched most of our lives,” Icaza-Gast said. “We recognize the heartbreak that comes with a cancer diagnosis and we are dedicated to doing whatever we can to help patients and families at a time of great need.” She added that this year’s gala “will take us to a beautiful, exotic locale where many surprises await.”

Guest speaker will be Merril Hoge, former NFL star, former ESPN analyst and cancer survivor. As a graduate of Idaho State University with a degree in education and a minor in health and fitness, Hoge was a four-year football starter, and left with 44 school and conference records, and two NCAA football records. 

He was drafted in 1987 by the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he played until 1993 and led the team in rushing and receiving in four of his first five years. In 1993, Hoge went to the Chicago Bears as a free agent where he played one year until he was forced to retire early due to post-concussion syndrome.

In 1995, he joined ESPN as a football analyst, where he worked with Ron Jaworski on the highly acclaimed NFL Match UP show, the only show that uses and studies coaches’ tape to provide an inside look at the game. 

In 2010, Hoge published his first book, entitled Find A Way, a phrase that has been his philosophy since he was 12 years old. This philosophy has helped him attain his goals as well as overcoming challenges and setbacks, from the death of his mother when he was young, to having to end his football career due to head trauma, and being diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2003. 

Since his playing days, Hoge has been on the board of the Highmark Caring Foundation, and is currently chairman of the board. The Foundation has created four centers for grieving children, adolescents and their families, called the Highmark Caring Place, four Pennsylvania communities.

Gala tickets are $150 each and may be purchased by calling the SoutheastHEALTH Foundation at 573-519-4920 or online at Corporate sponsorships are also available. Event sponsors will have the opportunity to attend a VIP meet and greet with Merrill Hoge. For more information about becoming a sponsor, call the SoutheastHEALTH Foundation.