PHA’s First Annual O2 Breathe Gala

Last Thursday, at the back of what seemed to be just a very large parking garage, a group of well-dressed men and women came together to celebrate the life of Dr. Robyn Barsta known, praised and loved pioneer in the field of Pulmonary Hypertension.

Photo credit to

Photo credit to

Hosted by the Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA) and featuring guests including MSNBC/NBC’s Craig Melvin, award-winning singer/songwriter, Chloe Temtchine and others, the First Annual O2 Breathe Gala was held at Chelsea Pier’s Lighthouse and catered by renowned in-house caterer, Abigail Kirsch.

From the opening cranberry mojitos to the ending hot chocolate, Abigail Kirsch has catering on point, and the beautiful space at this venue only makes for a more special evening. Cuddled between the West Side Highway and a beautiful view of New Jersey across the Hudson River, The Lighthouse is a perfect setting for a gala.

Followed by cocktails, wine, a silent auction and step and repeat photos, guests of the the O2 Breathe Gala were seated to enjoy sesame shrimp, cucumber rolls, steak, creamed spinach and fingerling potatoes before the final course of rich chocolate cake with a red velvet sherbet. My mouth is still watering. And during all of this amazing cuisine, Melvin and PHA chair-holders paid tribute to Dr. Robyn Barst with photographs and memories of her amazing contributions and strides in her medical field. Mentees and other individuals whose lives Dr. Barst incomparably affected also took the stage to pay homage to her work in addition to two performers who have survived well past their prognoses from Pulmonary Hypertension.PHA logo

As if the sense of love, appreciation and general hope were not strong enough based merely on the kind words spoken of Dr. Barst, guests about the room managed to raise $34,000 in research funds, promising payment for for over a year of research regarding Pulmonary Hypertension. Note that these funds were in addition to money raised by the silent auction, which commanded the majority of venue space outside the dining tables.

Was I able to donate a few thousand dollars to help prevent more needless deaths and improve the quality of life for individuals living with Pulmonary Hypertension? Unfortunately, not. Even so, and though I knew almost no one present at the gala and have never known anyone with this diagnosis, PHA’s event filled me with gratitude and hope to the point of tears. I can only imagine how much it must have meant to those who have been affected by this illness.

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