Transforming the pain of losing a loved one to pancreatic cancer into something positive is powerful.
On Saturday, June 29, when more than 300 guests arrived at the annual Harry’s Berries Benefit Dinner in Oxnard, Calif., attendees felt that power and how they were part of something bigger.
Harry’s Berries and the renowned Wolfgang Puck Catering teamed up to make an impact on the world’s toughest cancer by donating 100 percent of the evening’s proceeds to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN).
Pancreatic cancer has touched both sponsoring businesses. It claimed the lives of Harry and Yayoi Iwamoto, who started the family-run Harry’s Berries in 1967, as well as Matt Bencivenga, who was Wolfgang Puck Catering’s longtime executive chef and managing partner.
Guests – including loyal Harry’s Berries customers, pancreatic cancer survivors, family and friends who lost someone to the disease and PanCAN staff – were greeted with cocktails, mocktails and appetizers made with Harry’s Berries’ famous strawberries. Everyone was encouraged to wander around the farm, typically closed to the public, and to bid on the many silent auction items.
For dinner, attendees were treated to a buffet featuring Wolfgang Puck Catering must-haves like Santa Maria style grilled New York steak, pan-roasted chicken with ratatouille and special summer salads with burrata or fresh corn. And, of course, no Harry’s Berries dinner would be complete without a build-your-own strawberry shortcake bar.
The evening’s most touching moments came from the stories of hope that were shared.
Kaz Iwamoto spoke lovingly about his father, Harry, who passed away from pancreatic cancer in 1993, while his sister, Molly – who still runs the business with her husband – talked about their mother, who passed away from the disease in 2017. Their dedication to PanCAN – Iwamoto is a volunteer Logistics Chair for PurpleStride L.A., the walk to end pancreatic cancer – is an inspiring reminder that one can find healing through action.
This year’s dinner raised more than $45,000 for PanCAN, which will fund its mission to improve outcomes for pancreatic cancer patients.