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Seena Magowitz event raises record $2.5 million

Event focuses on pancreatic cancer research
 Steve Fendrich, left, and Steve Stagner, right, both of Mattress Firm, Houston, with Jai Pausch, pancreatic cancer activist; Roger and Jeanne Magowitz of the Seena Magowitz Foundation; and Kelly Gordon of Protect-A-Bed. Mattress Firm purchased the stuffed Tiggers and is donating them to an Arizona toy drive for foster care children.Steve Fendrich, left, and Steve Stagner, right, both of Mattress Firm, Houston, with Jai Pausch, pancreatic cancer activist; Roger and Jeanne Magowitz of the Seena Magowitz Foundation; and Kelly Gordon of Protect-A-Bed. Mattress Firm purchased the stuffed Tiggers and is donating them to an Arizona toy drive for foster care children.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The upbeat spirit of one of pancreatic cancer's best-known victims, "Last Lecture" author Randy Pausch, was much in evidence here during this month's annual Seena Magowitz Foundation Celebrity Golf Classic.

And that spirit helped the event raise more than $2.5 million for pancreatic cancer research, a record amount, officials said.

Two $1 million donations were announced at the luncheon, one by Roger and Jeanne Magowitz, two of the moving forces in the creation of the Seena Magowitz Foundation, and another by Atlanta businessman Howard Young, a pancreatic cancer survivor.

In addition, the golf event and related fundraising activities raised an additional more than $500,000 for pancreatic cancer research, Roger Magowitz said.

The optimistic tone of the event was set as the attendees remembered Randy Pausch, the 47-year-old Carnegie Mellon computer science professor who died of pancreatic cancer in 2008. His spirit was celebrated in "The Last Lecture," a best-selling book and a widely seen TV program.

That spirit was kept alive at the awards luncheon here, which attracted more than 400 home furnishings and bedding industry executives and other attendees. Sitting on each table in the room was a stuffed Tigger doll, the upbeat character from "Winnie the Pooh" that Pausch identified with. Pausch believed that people are either Tiggers, looking for the adventure and good in all things, or Eeyores, looking at the dark side.

The Tigger spirit was exemplified by several of the speakers at the luncheon, including Pausch's widow, Jai, who has become a pancreatic cancer activist. She said the fight against pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest cancers, has ample manpower and brainpower but needs more financial support.

The 40 Tiggers on the tables at the luncheon were purchased by Mattress Firm, which has been a major supporter of the event and will step up its commitment to the cause, said Steve Stagner, CEO of the Houston-based retailer.

The Tiggers will be donated by Mattress Firm to the Arizona Assn. for Foster and Adoptive Parents to support the organization's annual toy drive to provide Christmas gifts for the more than 10,000 children in Arizona's foster care system.

The luncheon attracted medical and sports figures from the Phoenix area. Derrick Hall, president of the Arizona Diamondbacks pro baseball team, said that Roger Magowitz "envisions a world without cancer and that's what brings everyone here." Dr. Daniel Von Hoff, the physician-in-chief at TGen, a cutting edge research facility in Phoenix, said a high-powered medical "SWAT team" is working on a cure for pancreatic cancer.

Magowitz launched the first Seena Magowitz Celebrity Golf Classic in 2003. The event honors his mother, Seena, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2001.

Magowitz has been president of Virginia Beach, Va.-based Mattress Discounters, but he recently sold his company to Houston-based Mattress Firm. That retailer, one of the largest bedding retailers in the country, has named Magowitz to the new position of charitable advisor and said he will continue to focus on the Seena Magowitz event.

Steve Stagner, CEO of Mattress Firm, said the company will devote its resources to the cause of fighting pancreatic cancer. After a meeting with Von Hoff, one of the leading pancreatic cancer researchers in the world, Stagner said he is convinced that the doctor and his team of researchers will find a cure for pancreatic cancer in the near future.

The disease kills more than 35,000 Americans each year and is the fourth-leading cause of cancer death.
Supporters of the Seena Magowitz Celebrity Golf Classic include Mattress Firm, Serta, Sealy, Simmons, Tempur-Pedic, Protect-A-Bed, Leggett & Platt, International Bedding, Anatomic Global and Glideaway Sleep Products, among many others.

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