PHOENIX — Celebrity Fight Night — a high-dollar, celebrity- and athlete-attended event and fundraiser that's typically held every year in Phoenix — is set to return to the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa on March 12, 2022.
It is the first time that the event will be held since 2019 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic (events were not held in 2020 or 2021).
The event, which previously raised funds for the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at Barrow Neurological Institute among other charitable organizations, has since reorganized and refocused its mission.
Celebrity Fight Night Foundation merged with Gateway for Cancer Research last year, an organization that funds grants for clinical cancer treatment when traditional treatments have been exhausted or not worked. That means Celebrity Fight Night will now raise funds solely for Gateway for Cancer Research and its clinical treatment grants.
The organization is led by Richard J. Stephenson, chairman of Gateway for Cancer Research, and Dr. Stacie J. Stephenson, who is vice chair of Gateway for Cancer Research. Jimmie Walker, who founded the event 27 years ago, is no longer part of organizing the event.
ABC15 talked with the Stephenson's a few weeks ago over Zoom about the new mission and the upcoming event.
"We believe that philanthropy should be wonderfully fun, mission driven. And when you put those two together, you really have magic," said Dr. Stacie Stephenson.
"We want you to learn about the mission, but we want you to have an unbelievably unexpected, fabulous time for the best cause that makes you feel good about your pocketbook and good about your evening to the moment you leave your car that evening," she said.
Singer Reba McEntire, who has been part of the event for years, will again be back this year, along with singer David Foster. Pitbull will headline the event.
The Stephenson's said the merger brings two powerful organizations together with the ability to focus on a singular goal — cancer treatment and research — as well as conveying to the general public better what Celebrity Fight Night is.
"Our goal with the experience of the celebrity and influential aspect here this year that's different is we want all of our celebrity entertainers and participants to really have a heart for the cancer mission," Dr. Stacie Stephenson said. "And so we're asking all of them to share with Phoenix, what their experience has been with cancer and why they're joining this cause. They're joining Gateway's Celebrity Fight Night to help us lend their voice to cancer research."
Typically, the event includes celebrities, athletes, and other notable people, live performances, food and drink, and various items up for auction. Individual seats start at $1,500 and tables (10 people) start at $10,000.
While it will be held at JW Phoenix Desert Ridge this year, there is a chance that the venue could change in the future.
"It is the people of this valley that have supported Celebrity Fight night, and now Gateway's Celebrity Fight Night just wants to be a part of that and take it to the moon once again," she said. "So our heart really says this belongs here. Maybe over time looking at different fabulous venue selections here in the Valley, we are considering that, but this time, we've decided to honor the history, you know, introduce ourselves and to our new mission."