Ally Hilfiger, Richard Gerstner, Dr. Karen Newell to be Honored at the Time for Lyme Gala on April 2, 2011

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Proceeds from the event will be used to fund important research projects, medical symposiums and education. Since the commencement of Time for Lyme’s fundraising efforts in 2001, it has raised nearly $5 million and partnered with Columbia University Medical Center to create its Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Research Center.

Time for Lyme will honor Ally Hilfiger with the Star Light Award and Richard Gerstner and Dr. Karen Newell with the Lauren F. Brooks Hope Award, at its fundraiser, “Illusions of Lyme,” on April 2 at the Hilton Hotel in Stamford. Time for Lyme is a Greenwich-based non-profit that funds research on Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.

Hilfiger, 26, daughter of fashion icon and Greenwich resident Tommy Hilfiger, recently launched a new fashion line and is a film producer, actress and reality show star. She’s accomplished all this despite facing a 19-year battle with Lyme disease.

Time for Lyme selected Hilfiger for the award because she is an avid spokesperson about the obstacles faced by the thousands of people afflicted with the disease. Faced with a myriad of afflictions, Hilfiger underwent years of misdiagnoses from ‘growing pains‘ to multiple sclerosis.

“We are thrilled Ally Hilfiger has joined us to help dispel the myth that Lyme symptoms are imagined. Thousands of people are told that their symptoms are “illusions”, by practitioners who are not well enough versed in the disease’s indicators” said Deb Siciliano, a co-founder of Time for Lyme.

Also honored at the gala for his unfaltering commitment to making strides in the battle against Lyme will be Richard Gerstner, who faced a long battle with Lyme during his tenure at IBM and his subsequent career in the venture capital arena. Gerstner, whose affliction made him so ill he was unable to work over a two-year period, like Hilfiger, underwent many misdiagnoses and unnecessary surgeries in an attempt to regain his heath.

He will receive the Lauren Brooks Hope Award, named for Lauren Brooks, a former board member for Time for Lyme who gave unconditional support and education to throngs of families looking for guidance in face of the disease. Brooks lost her life in 2007, and her passion and tireless effort will live on in this special award in her name honoring those who are making strides in research, treatment and, ultimately, a cure.

Past recipients of the award include Nobel Laureate Dr. Luc Montagnier and world-renown pediatrician Dr. Charles Ray Jones.

Thanks to Gerstner’s initial grant and subsequent grants from Time for Lyme, Dr. M. Karen Newell will receive the Lauren Brooks Hope Award at the event. Dr. Newell is conducting groundbreaking research in unraveling the complexities behind chronic Lyme disease and is contributing to making great progress toward treatment and a cure.

Newell’s commitment to researching and developing a protocol to treat Lyme and other tick-borne diseases includes a discovery that certain immune characteristics may contribute to whether a person is susceptible or resistant to the development of chronic inflammation as a result of infection .

“The idea behind our research is that those with a genetic blueprint that does not allow certain self-peptides to be processed or removed tend to mount an auto-reactive or chronic inflammatory immune response,” Newell says. Her theory proposes a “targeted” peptide to replace or remove the self-peptides and restore a healthy immune response in patients. The study aims to shed light on the chronic inflammatory response and symptoms shared by a significant subset of Lyme disease patients.

“It is our hope that the work of Dick Gerstner and Karen Newell will reinforce the importance of proper diagnosis and lead to improved testing and prognosis for Lyme and other tick-borne diseases,” said Diane Blanchard, co-founder with Siciliano of Time for Lyme. “We’ve selected these honorees because we believe they will encourage others to join in and continue a steadfast battle against Lyme, despite so many children and adults having their hopes dashed by ineffective testing and widespread lack of accessibility to treatment.”

The Gala will be chaired by Scott Mitchell of the high-end fashion retail store Richards of Greenwich and will feature world-renowned mentalist and illusionist Shimshi, entertainment and a live and silent auction.

Proceeds from the event will be used to fund important research projects, medical symposiums and education. Since the commencement of Time for Lyme’s fundraising efforts in 2001, it has raised nearly $5 million and partnered with Columbia University Medical Center to create its Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Research Center. The Columbia Center is led by the efforts of Dr. Brian Fallon and has made significant progress in demonstrating the impact of Lyme disease on the brain and in identifying biomarkers in order to lead to improved diagnostic test and, importantly, more effective treatment.

In addition to funding research, Time for Lyme raises money to combat and prevent other tick-borne diseases through education, outreach, public policy initiatives, information-sharing and support.

Illusions of Lyme will be held at 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 2 at the Hilton Stamford Hotel. For tickets or more information, call 646-502-9374 or visit http://www.timeforlyme.org.

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MELISSA CHEFEC
MCPR Public Relations
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