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Karmanos Cancer Institute's Partners Night 2019, Friday, Sept. 20, honors the LaFontaine Family

DETROIT, Sept. 12, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute will celebrate its Partners Night 2019 at the historic State Savings Bank in downtown Detroit on Friday, Sept. 20. Partners is a 26-year tradition recognizing research excellence and raising funds to help advance cancer research. This year, Karmanos Cancer Institute and the Partners Committee are honored to recognize the LaFontaine Family for their outstanding contributions to the cancer research field.

The LaFontaine family have been tireless supporters of southeast Michigan for decades, beginning with the creation of the LaFontaine Automotive group in 1980, serving their customers, staff and community. That same commitment to give back continues with their nonprofit, U CAN-CER VIVE Foundation, which has raised more than $2,000,000 since it established in 2016 to support cancer research. Founded by siblings Ryan and Kelley LaFontaine, the ongoing mission of the U CAN-CER VIVE is to provide vital funding and support for local cancer research grants. Their passion toward the fight against cancer stems from the heart and soul of the LaFontaine's commitment to give back, knowing firsthand the impact that cancer can have on a family. Operated solely by passionate volunteers, the LaFontaine's are proud to be able to donate 100 percent of the profits of U CAN-CER VIVE to help those battling this disease.

"We are so honored and humbled to be recognized by Karmanos and the Partners Committee at this year's Partners fundraiser," said Kelley LaFontaine. "Everyone, in one way or another, has been or will be touched by cancer. Many people want to help but often feel they alone can't make a difference.

"We began U CAN-CER VIVE to unite and engage the community to help support cancer research. We're so proud to partner with Karmanos Cancer Institute's team of experts who share the same mission and vision of a world free of cancer. We hope everyone will reach in their hearts and pockets to support this worthy cause and the outstanding work of Karmanos. Every dollar raised today will impact cancer outcomes in the future."  

Proceeds from this year's Partners event will support the work of the team of researchers led by Kay-Uwe Wagner, Ph.D., leader of the Tumor Biology and Microenvironment Program at Karmanos and professor of Basic Science, Wayne State University School of Medicine. Dr. Wagner, and his team of clinical and basic researchers are developing a Tumor Organ Donation Program that will study the cellular and molecular processes that drive the initiation and metastatic progression of cancers cells through their interaction with healthy cells in an organ. The information gained will have a long-term impact on research pertaining the spread of cancer cells and help lead to new breakthroughs, providing researchers with access to a library of ethnically diverse cancer specimens. Studying these specimens will help to better understand the tumor progression in a specific patient, and examine why and when cancer cells typically spread to particular healthy organs.

'We continue to be inspired by our patients and those who generously support cancer research to help save lives. No one demonstrates that commitment of paying-it-forward more than the LaFontaine family," said Gerold Bepler, M.D., Ph.D., president and CEO of Karmanos Cancer Institute.

"Their passion, generosity and example of engaging others to help end this disease is nothing short of incredible. We are truly honored to recognize the LaFontaine family at this year's Partners event."

The Partners events would not be possible without the accomplishments of the Partners Committee, a group of young professional philanthropists who have worked tirelessly to raise awareness and philanthropic dollars to support the cancer research program at Karmanos through The Partners Events. Since its inception, Partners Events have raised more than $16.7 million to advance cancer research, benefitting cancer patients here in Michigan and across the globe.

This year's Partners Executive Co-Chairs are Matt Melchior and Hilary Notaro, both from Detroit.


Melchior and Notaro, along with their committee, have an exciting Partners Night planned featuring exquisite cuisine, interactive entertainment, a raffle and a silent auction, all while investing in innovative cancer research that will lead to the next treatment breakthroughs. Guests in attendance enjoy a fun and elegant night out, while being immersed in Art Deco architecture of the 1900's State Savings Bank. The gilded ceilings and vintage bank vault will provide the perfect backdrop for an unforgettable evening.


Karmanos Cancer Institute's Partners Night 2019


Friday, September 20

7 p.m. – midnight


State Savings Bank

151 W. Fort St., Detroit, MI 48226


$175 per person; $95 for guests ages 21-30. Complimentary valet parking.


Cocktail Chic


7 – 8 p.m.:

Registration and Strolling Cocktail Reception

Cocktail and hors d'oeuvre reception, musical entertainment by Matt Kysia, silent auction bidding and raffle begins.


Try your chance to win a trip for two at one of four destinations in the U.S., airfare included. Value $2,500. Tickets may be purchased ahead of time by contacting Britta Carlson at, (313) 576-8111. Raffle tickets will also be available at the event. You don't need to be present to win. Cost of raffle tickets: $50 each, three for $100 or 10 tickets for $250.

  • New Orleans Experience: Trip for two to New Orleans (excluding Mardi Grass), including round-trip airfare, 4 days/3 nights at a 4-5 star hotel in the French Quarter or central business district. Experience includes steamboat dinner cruise down the Mississippi and a Bourbon Street tour (choice of food tour, cemetery tour or historical French Quarter walking tour).
  • New York City Experience: Trip for two to New York City, including round-trip airfare, 4 days/3 nights at a 4-5-star hotel in Manhattan. This NYC experience includes a Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and 9/11 tour with Priority One World Observatory tickets.
  • San Francisco & Napa Valley Experience: Trip for two to San Francisco, including round-trip airfare, staying 3 nights/4 days at a 4-5-star hotel in San Francisco or Napa. A visit on the Napa Valley Wine Train and Winery tour or Alcatraz tour. Walk-on Walk-off Tour Pass is included.
  • Disney's Food and Wine Festival: Visit the 2020 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. The 25th annual festival runs the end of August to the middle of November 2020. Trip for two to Disney World Florida, including round-trip airfare, staying 3 nights/4 days at a hotel on Disney property. Two-day park- hopper tickets for entering Epcot and any other Disney park.

EXCITING AUCTION – Let the Bidding begin!

There are several wonderful auction items and experiences up for bid. Below is a sampling. All auction offerings can be viewed at  

  • Scent Lab Experience, up to 12 guests, donated by DetroitWick
  • VIP Downtown Detroit Tour Experience, includes private tour with catered lunch in the dPOP! Vault, up to 10 guests, donated by Rock Ventures
  • Detroit Lions Premium Suite Experience for Dec. 29 at 1 p.m., when the Detroit Lions face the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field. Package includes up to 12 guests, Premium Club Access and two VIP parking passes, donated by The Detroit Lions

8 - 8:30 p.m. Program 

Speakers will include Partners Committee Co-Chair Matt Melchior; Gerold Bepler, M.D., Ph.D., president and CEO, Karmanos Cancer Institute; and Honorees, Kelley and Ryan LaFontaine.

8:30 p.m. – Midnight: Strolling Dinner, Desserts, Entertainment  

Strolling dinner, desserts, dancing and entertainment by Jared Sykes continue through midnight. Raffle and silent auction continue through 9:30 p.m. Winners of the special games announced at 10:30 p.m.

2019 Partners Sponsors: Host Sponsor, LaFontaine Automotive Group; Entertainment Sponsor, Danialle and Peter Karmanos, Jr.; Platinum Sponsor, Kenwal Steel Corporation; Gold Sponsor, Magna; Silver Sponsors, Comerica Incorporated, Phillip A. Incarnati Foundation, NHL Foundation and Worthington Industries; and Media Sponsors, HOUR Detroit and DBusiness Magazines.

2019 Partners Committee: Executive Co-Chairs are Matt Melchior and Hilary Notaro. Committee Members include: Clarke Dirksen, Keely Dudal, Corey Hansen, Kelley LaFontaine, Dave Logan, Courtney Nichol, Anthony Raishi, Jimmy Saros, Kelley Saros, Mahdi Shafari and Jake Simon.

How Partners Started
Karmanos Cancer Institute long-time supporters Anna and Harry Korman had the vision to begin Partners in memory of their late daughter Suzanne who died of cancer at the age of 36. The Kormans established the committee as a way to engage young people in raising money for cancer research, knowing that research would lead to advancements in treatment options and early detection methods.

The Kormans' daughter and son-in-law, Eunice and Milton Ring, and other family members, continue the Kormans' legacy along with the Partners Committee, which this year marks the 26th year of hosting the Partners Events. The Partners are united in the fight against cancer and are dedicated to solely raising funds for research at Karmanos Cancer Institute through the annual signature fundraiser known as the Partners Night. 

For more information on ways to support Karmanos through sponsorships or other fundraising opportunities, or to be part of the Partners Committee, call 313-576-8106, email or visit       

About the Partners
The Partners are a group of hardworking, "hands-on" volunteers who pool their ideas and resources and join together for the sole purpose of raising funds for the Karmanos Cancer Institute. Many of these dedicated volunteers are motivated by their own personal struggles or those of loved ones battling this disease. The Partners are dedicated to making sure that other families who are faced with this illness always have a place to turn where they will receive the ultimate in patient care, education and treatment. For more information, go to       

This marks the 26th year that the Partners Committee has given their time, talent and resources to raise awareness and engage the community to help support Karmanos Cancer Institute through the Partners Events. Since the committee began, the Partners Events have raised more than $16.7 million to help advance cancer research.

About the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute
Karmanos Cancer Institute is headquartered in Detroit, with 16 locations throughout Michigan. As part of McLaren, Karmanos is the largest cancer care and research network in the state. It is among the nation's best cancer centers as one of the National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the United States and the only one located in metro Detroit. Karmanos cancer experts focus solely on cancer to prevent, detect and treat as well as eradicate all forms of cancer. Its long-term partnership with the Wayne State University School of Medicine enhances the collaboration of critical research and academics related to cancer care. For more information, call 1-800-KARMANOS (800-527-6266) or visit Follow Karmanos on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.


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SOURCE Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute