LL Cool J and KISS Will Help Nancy Davis Put the Fun in Fundraiser at This Year’s Race to Erase MS Gala

Davis hopes her rock ’n’ roll fundraiser will help find a cure for Multiple Sclerosis

On Friday, April 15, Nancy Davis will hold her annual Race to Erase MS Gala. She was called to action when she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis 24 years ago, and doctors did not give her very much to be optimistic about. Her fundraising solution always has a theme—the year Will and Kate got married, Royal impersonators wandered the ballroom and everyone wore tiaras. Another time, a ’70s flower power motif had famous folk sporting bellbottoms and afros. As there is always a rock ‘n’ roll element to the party, 2016 is dubbed ‘Rock to Erase MS,’ with celebs like LL Cool J putting in a appearance and KISS performing. The event also hosts one of the best silent auctions in town, offering everything from renaissance portraits to botox treatments to internships.

In 23 years, everyone from No Doubt to Earth, Wind and Fire to Fitz and The Tantrums to Stevie Wonder have performed at the fundraiser that supports Davis’s Center Without Walls program. Her org funds a network of doctors working towards prevention and an eventual cure for MS. They also give grants. The morning after the bash, Davis and the doctors from the Center will hold a free Center Without Walls MS Forum at the Beverly Hilton, which is open to all, in order to talk about advances and patient care. Want to hang out with LL Cool J, Lea Michele, Ashley Tisdale, and rock out to KISS? Tickets are still available here for the April 15 Race to Erase MS honoring Carolyn Rafaelian, Founder, CEO, and CCO of ALEX AND ANI. But before the big bash, we caught up with the Davis to get the scoop on this year’s fundraiser and her hope of finding a cure.

How has the event changed since you started it as a ski race in Aspen decades ago?
It was definitely smaller then, and there was the matter of getting everyone to fly there. Then, it was about 600 people. Friday night there was a country western party, and the next day was the race. I live in L.A. and thought, “Why don’t I have it here?” We did an Olympic-style thing at UCLA, it was around the time L.A. hosted the Olympics, and it’s been in L.A. ever since—with the exception of once in Vegas. Now it is over a thousand guests.

Michael Fitzpatrick, Fitz and the Tantrums at Race to Erase in 2012
Michael Fitzpatrick, Fitz and the Tantrums at Race to Erase in 2012

Photograph by Joe Seer / Shutterstock.com

How long does it take to put together?
It takes a concentrated nine months of your life. It’s like having a baby. You have morning sickness in the beginning, and in the end you deliver a healthy baby.

How are you feeling?
You know what, I honestly am feeling really well. I’ve had this disease for 24 years, and I know that every day I feel well, I knock on wood. So many people are not doing well. It’s a tough disease and very unpredictable. My sister Dana, who has diabetes, has been diagnosed with MS, too. But when we started our first year in Aspen, there were no drugs on the market, no protocol, very little help. Today we are announcing the FDA approval of the 13th drug on the market. It’s really exciting.

Race to Erase has one of the craziest live and silent auctions around. What’s on the auction block this year?
There’s tea with Sharon and Kelly Osbourne at the Peninsula, a private yacht in the Bahamas for five days, golfing with my husband and one of the members of Earth, Wind and Fire, dinner for 20 at Mr Chow. Things like that. Items you can’t get anywhere else.

Gwen Stefani at the Race to Erase in 1997
Gwen Stefani at the Race to Erase in 1997

Photograph by Featureflash Photo Agency/Shutterstock.com

Every year you end the evening singing Lean On Me. Why?
Driving in my car after being diagnosed with MS, the song Lean On Me came on the radio and it hit me in a big, emotional way. We’ve sung it at the end of the night for years. This year the boy band Emblem3 is singing it. We will find a cure for MS, it’s not a pipe dream. We’re getting there.