Actress Mary McDonnell Dances with Lyme Fundraiser

New York Governors Office and Celebrities Take on Debilitating Disease

Oct 18, 2002 – Oscar-nominated Actress Mary McDonnell will serve as honorary chairperson of a benefit dinner to raise money to create the first Lyme disease research center of its kind in the United States at Columbia University. The Time for Lyme benefit dinner, which is open to the public, will be emceed by NBC’s Chuck Scarborough and actress Jayne Atkinson, who stars on Broadway in the production of Our Town with Paul Newman. Funds raised at the event also will be directed at Lyme disease education, prevention, and other types of research programs.

Lyme can cause neurological, arthritic and severe joint problems. An estimated 90 percent of the cases of Lyme go unreported.  Actress McDonnell embraced the needs of Lyme patients after her cousin’s husband died.  McDonnell’s family learned he died of Lyme only after his death. "If physicians were better educated to identify Lyme, he may have lived.  We need to raise money to help the thousands out there still suffering when they don’t have to," says McDonnell.  

The benefit begins at 6 p.m. on Friday, October 18, at Manhattan’s Sky Club, which is located at 200 Park Ave. on the 56th floor, and includes a cocktail reception, live and silent auctions, and live entertainment. The Lyme disease Association (LDA) and the Greenwich Lyme Disease Task Force ( GLDTF) are sponsoring the event and already have donated $700,000 to Columbia University, but $3 million is needed to make the center fully operational. New York Governor George E. Pataki also is supporting the benefit.  And honorary committee members for the benefit include: Jayni and Chevy Chase, Tommy Hilfiger, Sonia and Paul Tudor Jones, Magee Hickey, and Ellen and Chuck Scarborough.

Brian Fallon, MD, associate professor of clinical psychiatry and director of the current Lyme Disease Program at New York Psychiatric Institute, will be the Center’s director. He is considered by many to be the leading expert on neuropsychiatric manifestations of Lyme disease.

Fundraiser with Mary McDonnell

September 25, 2002

The Lyme Disease Association and the Greenwich Lyme Disease Task Force are hosting Time for Lyme in New York  on October 18 at Manhattan’s Sky Club at 200 Park Ave. on the 56th floor. The event will raise funds for Lyme disease research and education, and will consist of a cocktail reception, live and silent auctions, and live entertainment. Over five hundred people from the Tri-State area are expected to attend the benefit.  Lyme Disease Association spokesperson and Event Honorary Chair, Mary McDonnell (Oscar-nominated actress in Dances With Wolves) will appear at the event.  Honorary Committee members include Jayni and Chevy Chase, Tommy Hilfiger, Sonia and Paul Tudor Jones, Magee Hickey and Ellen and Chuck Scarborough.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Lyme disease is the fastest growing infectious disease in the United States after HIV, and the nation’s number one vector-borne disease. The national Lyme Disease Association (LDA) and its affiliate the Greenwich Lyme Disease Task Force (GLDTF) want to see that change, and are fighting to find an accurate test to determine active infection and, eventually, a cure for Lyme and other tick-borne illness.

Children are at greatest risk for contracting Lyme disease as they often play in and around tick infested areas. Symptoms of Lyme can include nausea, extreme fatigue, joint pain, cardiac issues, severe headache and a general inability to lead a normal life. Diagnosis is difficult because current blood tests are often inaccurate, and the multi-systemic nature of the disease leads to difficulty in diagnosis.

“The lack of a sensitive diagnostic test to confirm active infection is the key problem in the field of Lyme disease treatment," said Dr. Brian Fallon, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University and a well-known authority on the neurological manifestations of disseminated Lyme disease.  "The absence of such a test leaves doctors in the uncomfortable quandary of not knowing what treatment to choose, and places patients at risk for developing a more entrenched illness."

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, and is transmitted through the bite of an infected tick. According to the CDC’s latest statistics, cases of Lyme disease reported to the agency increased eight percent in 1999-2000, but many experts, including the International Lyme and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), believe that Lyme disease is underreported by tenfold due to lack of  knowledge about the disease and stringent reporting criteria.

"More than 160,000 people are infected each year, and the one-size-fits-all approach for treatment that many doctors use is often inappropriate," said LDA President and ILADS Board of Directors member Pat Smith.

The Greenwich Lyme Disease Task Force and the Lyme Disease Association have agreed to partner with Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center of New York, and are working to open the Columbia Lyme Disease Research Center, the first of its kind in the nation. The Center, under the direction of Dr. Fallon, will conduct research on Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, and will treat patients.  The GLDTF and the LDA are endowing the Center, and  $3 million is required to make the Center operational. Substantial private and corporate donations are needed to fund this research effort, which will be a primary focus of Time for Lyme in New York. Funds raised at the benefit will also be directed at Lyme disease education and prevention awareness.

"I have seen first hand the suffering that comes from Lyme infection," said event co-chair Dana McAvity of the GLDTF.  "Those of us who have suffered with Lyme and all those who may be infected in the future need this Center.  Time for Lyme in New York is an important first step in getting the funding.  It should be a wonderful evening."

The Greenwich Lyme Disease Task Force and the Lyme Disease Association are non-profit organizations.  Tickets for the benefit begin at $250 per ticket, and are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.

Nation’s First Chronic Lyme Disease Research Center at Columbia University

Oscar-nominated Actress Mary McDonnell Joins Leading Researchers and Patient Advocates to Announce Nation’s First Chronic Lyme Disease Research Center at Columbia University

Lyme Disease Association and Greenwich Lyme Disease Task Force honored for underwriting center with $675,000 gift

Lyme Disease cases on the rise

New York City (March 19, 2002) – On Thursday March 21, 2002, Columbia University will celebrate a $675,000 gift that will make possible the establishment of the nation’s first chronic Lyme disease research center, to be housed at Columbia. The gift – the first step towards the $3 million dollars needed to start the center – was made by the Lyme Disease Association (LDA) and the Greenwich Lyme Disease Task Force, affiliate of the Lyme Disease Association (GLDTF). Oscar-nominated actress Mary McDonnell will join leading physicians, researchers, patient advocates, business and community leaders and elected officials at a luncheon ceremony to commemorate the center’s establishment.

A luncheon to commemorate the announcement of the research center will take place on Thursday – March 21, 2002 at 12:30 p.m. in the Columbia Faculty Club at 630 West 168 Street on the fourth floor. The event is open to media.

“As we watch the number of Americans infected with Lyme disease continue to rise to record proportions, the Lyme Disease Association and the Greenwich Lyme Disease Task Force believe the time is right for a Lyme-dedicated research center,” said Pat Smith, President of the LDA. “Columbia University’s leadership in the area of Lyme disease research and the high concentration of Lyme disease in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic region makes it the best home for this research center, although moneys will flow from the Center to Lyme disease projects throughout the country.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Lyme disease reporting increased 8 percent from 1999 to 2000. The number of cases reported in 2000 – 17,730 – was well above the yearly average of 12,745 cases that has been reported since 1991. The CDC also reports that Lyme disease infections are significantly underreported, making an actual estimate for the number of new Lyme infections difficult to determine.

“Columbia University is proud to be the home of the first Center in the U.S. committed to the study of chronic Lyme disease….through this Center, we will be able to expand our commitment to research the disease, its effects, and ways to treat and cope with it,” said Dr. Brian Fallon, who will head the center and is currently Associate Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons. “With the continued support of patient advocates like the LDA and the GLDTF, as well as those in the medical community who are treating Lyme disease around the country, we are certain that the scientific research from this Center will result in a better understanding and ultimately better treatment of Lyme Disease.”

Oscar-nominated actress Mary McDonnell will be on hand to commemorate the center’s establishment and to help raise awareness about Lyme disease in the United States. Also on hand will be Diane Blanchard and Deborah Siciliano, co presidents of the GLDTF, as well as Joan Kiplinger of Greenwich-based Tiffany & Co. and several invited elected officials.

The Lyme Disease Association, founded in 1990, is an all-volunteer national organization dedicated to Lyme disease prevention, research and education. The Greenwich Lyme Disease Task Force, which shares the same goals as the LDA, was established in 1998 and became an affiliate of the LDA in 2000.

For more information about Lyme disease, please visit the LDA Web site at or the Columbia University Lyme Research Center Web site at