I’ve had the honor of calling well-known, well-loved cookbook queen and Advocate columnist Holly Clegg a friend for more than 26 years, going back to when she was peddling her "Mr. Bingle Cookbook." We’ve shared a lot of memories, but none as special and poignant as the Team Holly fundraiser for the Holly Clegg Gastric Cancer Research Fund held Aug. 1 at The Varsity, which reverberated with love and admiration for Holly.

As most of you know by now, Holly has been battling stomach cancer for about a year. She entered hospice in June after her team of doctors at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston advised against continued treatment. That hasn’t slowed her down.

“It’s time to start living,” she told the 600-plus members of Team Holly who packed The Varsity. “I’m creating new memories every day. … I’m the happiest person in hospice care.”

Never one to delegate party planning, Holly enlisted three of her favorite restaurants to cater the event: French Market Bistro, Gino’s and Raising Cane’s. And, while she's not able to eat, she’s still penning cookbooks. Her latest, in collaboration with physicians and nutritionists at MD Anderson, is tailored to gastric cancer patients.

Just as she has in her hometown, Holly has also touched the hearts of patients and staff at MD Anderson.

“Everybody’s gotten a cookbook,” said her gastric cancer surgeon, Dr. Brian Badgwell.

It was hard to tell who was smiling more — him or Holly — when she presented him with a check for $165,000 from the night’s celebration to help fund his research. That puts the amount raised since the fund started some six weeks ago at more than $225,000.

Holly admitted it’s too late for her to benefit from Badgwell’s research, but she’s hoping it will someday save others battling the same disease.

After the formal portion of the evening, event co-chairman Dr. Curtis Chastain, with whom Holly wrote the “trim & TERRIFIC: Guy’s Guide to Eating Well,” and his V-Tone bandmates took the stage along with special guests Allison Collins and David St. Romain.

“It was a perfect night, and I even felt normal,” Holly said later. 

If you’d like to donate to Holly’s fund visit gifts.mdanderson.org, click on “I’d like to choose where my donation will go”; using the drop-down menu, select “other”; type in "Holly Clegg Gastric Research Fund"; then enter payment information. Or you can send a check payable to The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and write Holly Clegg Gastric Cancer Research Fund in the memo line. The address is P.O. Box 4486, Houston, TX 77210-4486.

United Way

On July 29, Capital Area United Way held its annual luncheon meeting at the L’Auberge Event Center.

“Our future is bright,” CEO George Bell told attendees. “We are here for the community — a constant throughout our 95-year history … but this couldn’t happen without you or the dedicated support from those in past who have stepped up to lead.

“Our greatest need has always been each other,” he continued. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Some of the supporters of CAUW were honored at the luncheon for their efforts over the past year.

The Corporate Excellence Award went to ExxonMobil, the ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed) Award to Entergy and the Impact Partner Award to the Mental Health Association.

Outgoing board Chairman Dr. Stewart Gordon received the Outstanding Board Member Award; Newton Thomas was given the Alexis de Tocqueville Society Award; and CAUW staff member Laura Daigle was honored with the Myron Falk Service Award.

2018-2019 Campaign Awards went to Heather Sweeney, of Louisiana Healthcare Connections, Employee Campaign Coordinator of the Year; and Campaign Excellence Awards to Zachry Group, Westlake Chemical and McGlinchey Stafford. And, I have to brag on The Advocate and its generous employees who step up every year, which earned us a Campaign Excellence Award, as well.

The 2019-2020 campaign kicks into gear at the Jambalaya Jam set for Oct. 10 in downtown’s Town Square.

Email Pam Bordelon at pbordelon@theadvocate.com.