Celebrating Marty Brennaman, Our Superman


The Dragonfly Foundation’s annual Grand Gala helps young cancer and bone marrow transplant patients and their families find their strength and empower their fight. We sat down with Ria Davidson, the organization’s co-founder, to chat about the 2018 Grand Gala that will be honoring Marty Brennaman and the “Marty Girls.”


Venue Magazine: What’s the overall goal of Dragonfly’s Grand Gala?

Ria Davidson: We’re so excited about what’s in store for this year’s event. The focus of the event is simple, yet extremely critical. Our main goal is to raise awareness about the many ways Dragonfly families need support, and to raise necessary funds to support these programs.


Venue Magazine: Is there a particular theme or focus this year?

Ria Davidson: In previous years, the gala was historically a one-night affair. This year, the gala will be a two-night event to accommodate a larger number of guests. We will be honoring local legend and Reds radio announcer Marty Brennaman with our special Forty-Four Award. The award is unique, both in spirit and design. Inspired by (Dragonfly co-founder) Christine and Jim Neitzke’s son, Matt, the Forty-Four Award was created to recognize unwavering commitment, passion and enthusiasm for Dragonfly’s mission.

Matt was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2010, when he was only 10 years old. Despite being removed from home and school, suffering the physical and emotional challenges of treatment, and enduring long periods of isolation, he never let go of his dream of returning to baseball. Today, Matt is a senior at St. Xavier High School. Since age 4, he has played baseball with the same number on his jersey, the number 44.

When Matt had to leave the last baseball he threw before he was diagnosed, the “ball” stayed in the dent it made in the ground until he was well enough to pick it up again. The award illustrates both moments in time, and symbolizes his determination and commitment.

Mark Sudduth of Sudduth Glass in Cleveland Heights designed and created the award.


Venue Magazine: How is this event different or unique compared to galas in years’ past?

Ria Davidson: Last year was perfection, but we need to raise additional funding to continue our mission, so we are making it a two-night event. The first night will be a $75 Taste of the Gala event, and the second night will be a $175 black-tie affair with casino-type gaming and an award presentation.


Venue Magazine: What role do volunteers play in this event?

Ria Davidson: We couldn’t host the event without our incredible team of dedicated volunteers. While many roles, thankfully, are filled by returning volunteers, we also need help with identifying more sponsors and securing and wrapping auction items, and more. With the number of patients/families we support increasing 30 percent per year, and the huge challenge of raising money at a time when there is so much need and donors have limited donation dollars, we must do everything possible to make this – and every event – a success. Almost all our volunteers return from year to year, but there are always additional volunteers needed for planning, solicitation, sponsorships, wrapping auction items, etc. This year in particular, we are going to need twice as many volunteers since we are expanding the event to two days.


Venue Magazine: What are you most excited about this year?

Ria Davidson: We are thrilled to be returning to the Renaissance for this year’s gala and honoring our Superman, Marty Brennaman, during this special event. We’re so excited to host a two-day event to accommodate additional guests, and look forward to welcoming more people to our Dragonfly community.


The Dragonfly Foundation is located at 9275 Governors Way, Cincinnati, OH 45249. For more information, visit www.dragonfly.org.