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Natalie Cole to Headline Greenwich Benefit

GREENWICH, Conn. – Nine-time Grammy Award-winning R&B artist Natalie Cole will headline the annual Gala Benefit and Concert on May 5 for a Greenwich organization devoted to funding medical research, education and treatment to find a cure for a rare genetic disease commonly referred to as “children’s Alzheimer’s.”

Greenwich residents Phil and Andrea Marella formed Dana's Angels Research Trust 10 years ago after two of their children, Dana and Andrew, were diagnosed with the rare genetic disease, known as Niemann-Pick Type C . It causes progressive deterioration of the nervous system because of an interference in the body's ability to metabolize cholesterol. It leads to neurological problems that impact the ability to walk, talk and swallow. Children diagnosed with the disease rarely live past their early teens. Only 200 cases of Niemann-Pick Type C have been diagnosed in this country, two of whom are the Marella children.

“2012 marks the 10th anniversary of DART, and what better way to honor this occasion than with one of the most ‘unforgettable ’ performers of our time,” the Marellas said in a statement. “‘L.O.V.E.’ is one of our daughter Dana’s favorite songs, so it will be extra special to our family, and all of our supporters, to have Natalie sing that song.”

The trust is an all-volunteer organization, and more than 95 percent of the funds are channeled directly into medical research that may also help millions who suffer from HIV/AIDS, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and other cholesterol-related disorders.

The Marella children have been on different treatments to help keep the disease at bay. Andrew, who is now 12, started treatment at a young age. Dana, who is 18, was not diagnosed until she was 8. She now uses a wheelchair and no longer talks, and requires complete care. However, because of successful treatment, she is still able to attend school.

The trust has raised $2.3 million toward research and is a founding member of a collaborative drug development program called Support of Accelerated Research, or SOAR-NPC. The program’s collaborators have two drug trials already to their credit, and a third planned for the fall.

Throughout the years, Dana’s Angels has had the support of performers including America, Richard Dreyfuss, Rob Mathes, Smokey Robinson and Frankie Valli, who have all performed at the DART Gala Benefits. Kathie Lee and Frank Gifford are also longtime supporters of DART, hosting each annual benefit, along with Regis Philbin, who joined Lee onstage last year. Michelle Phillips of The Mamas and The Papas will once again act as honorary chair.

The concert, to be held at the Palace Theatre in Stamford, will be kicked off with a Gala Benefit that includes a cocktail reception with a pasta bar by World-Famous RAO’s Italian Restaurant as well as silent and live auction items with the Giffords as hosts.

Gala tickets are $350 and up and are available online . Concert tickets are $150, $95 and $65 and are available through the Stamford Center for the Arts Box Office online or by calling 203-325-4466.

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