Beach Boys join Dana’s Angels for benefit gala

Members  of The Beach Boys Mike Love and Bruce Johnston, in center, pose with members of the Marella family including Dana,up front, whose battle with Niemann-Pick type C inspired the formation of Dana’s Angels. Her brother Andrew, at her right, also has the disease but has responded well to treatment.  From left, Phillip, Andrea, Julia and Phil Marella also posed.  — Cara Gilbride photo

Members of The Beach Boys Mike Love and Bruce Johnston, in center, pose with members of the Marella family including Dana,up front, whose battle with Niemann-Pick type C inspired the formation of Dana’s Angels. Her brother Andrew, at her right, also has the disease but has responded well to treatment. From left, Phillip, Andrea, Julia and Phil Marella also posed.
— Cara Gilbride photo

The stars turned out earlier this month to benefit a Greenwich-based charity that is making great strides to cure the devastating Niemann-Pick type C (NPC) disease.

On June 1, the Palace Theater in Stamford was packed for the annual gala benefit concert for Dana’s Angels Research Trust (DART) a non-profit organization formed in 2002 by Greenwich residents Phil and Andrea Marella. The Marellas have two children with NPC, an ultra rare and fatal genetic disease that has been called “children’s Alzheimer’s.”

The disease causes cholesterol and other fatty substances to accumulate in cells in areas like bone marrow, lungs and the brain. Their 19-year-old daughter Dana, after whom DART is named, was first diagnosed when she was eight and is now confined to a wheelchair and can no longer talk. She requires constant care and vigilance from both her parents and health care workers, but she has already defied the odds since children with advanced NPC do not typically live past their early teens.

The Marellas’ son Andrew also has NPC but received treatment at a young age and has responded well to it and is now part of a new drug trial. The couple’s other children do not have the disease.

All funds from the benefit go toward funding research into treatment and a cure for NPC. And while this is something of the utmost importance to the Marellas and other families, the benefit concert was meant to be a fun and festive evening. Greenwich residents Kathie Lee and Frank Gifford served as co-hosts for the event, which they’ve been doing for eight years now, and the centerpiece of the evening was a performance by musical icons The Beach Boys.

The legends put on a concert for the crowd, performing many of their classic songs and even had themselves a little reunion on stage. Michelle Phllips, part of the famed group The Mamas and the Papas, appeared as a surprise to perform her group’s smash hit California Dreaming with the Beach Boys, marking the first time they have performed together in decades.

Luxury items like a trip for 10 to an estate in St. Croix and dinner at Rao’s in New York City were up for auction and brought in high bids from a crowd eager to help. At the end of the night, a total of more than $365,000 was raised. In the 11 years that DART has held its benefit, which has featured past musical legends like Smokey Robinson, Natalie Cole and Frankie Valli, more than $3 million has been raised.

For more information about DART and its ongoing efforts to find a cure, visit Danasangels.org.

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