Karen Murray, Michael Murray and Dr. Duke Cameron

It was finally payback time for Karen Murray.

The new chief executive officer of Sequential Brands Group was honored with the Inspiration of Excellence Award from The Marfan Foundation at its annual Heartworks fund-raising dinner Wednesday night, and the event was the most successful in its 17-year history, drawing nearly 600 guests and raising more than $1.2 million for the cause.

The Marfan Foundation raises funds and awareness for Marfan syndrome, a connective tissue disorder that can be fatal if untreated. Murray’s son Michael was diagnosed with the disease 20 years ago when he was five, and she has worked tirelessly for the foundation since that time.

Michael presented his mother with the award at the dinner, which boasted actress and comedian Julie Halston as master of ceremonies and a live performance by Stephanie Mills. Broadway stars Ann Reinking, whose son also has Marfan syndrome, and Bebe Neuwirth, were also in attendance.

During her acceptance speech, Murray asked everyone in the room who had Marfan or a related disorder to stand and be recognized, “because you are the reason we are all here.”

She also thanked the foundation for helping her deal with the “ups and down of managing a chronic illness. They have built such a warm and caring community” that helps families “learn, attendance conferences and above all, have a better life.”

Harry Steinmetz, Karen Murray and Bill Sweedler

Harry Steinmetz, Karen Murray and Bill Sweedler.  Timothy D Joyce

Michael Weamer, president and ceo of The Marfan Foundation, said it was “heart-warming to have so many people with Marfan or a related disorder at the event to celebrate our honorees with us. Because of this gala, we are able to continue to provide and expand our life-saving programs and services for our patient community as we work to not only extend their lives, but also to improve their quality of life.”

The event also honored Dr. Joseph Coselli, professor of surgery at Baylor College of Medicine, and Sinclair Li, executive vice president of CBRE Inc., with its Hero With a Heart Awards.

The Heartworks gala has raised more than $13 million for the foundation to date.

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