Seattle Times columnist Nicole Brodeur visits The Hutch Gala. Also, a combo basketball game and author reading; a look ahead to the city's first same-sex weddings; and the Ten Club Poster Sale.

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It made sense that folks looked like a million bucks at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Holiday Gala the other night. This is the crowd that raises millions every year to turn ideas into research, research into results, and results into hope.

This year’s gala, held Saturday at the Sheraton Seattle, raised close to $5 million, cementing its status as the single largest one-night fundraising event for nonprofits in the region.

“It’s all about the benefactors’ timing,” said Susan Dolbert, The Hutch’s vice president for development. “Our belief is to stay consistent with the people that love you, and keep them current on the science.”

There’s a lot to keep up with.

The Hutch’s one-millionth transplant will take place sometime in the next month.

Earlier this year, clinical researcher Dr. Sunil Hingorani made a breakthrough in getting chemotherapy drugs into pancreatic cancer tissue, something he said started as “A pie-in-the-sky idea.”

Dr. Fred Appelbaum, The Hutch’s director of clinical research (who attended with his wife, Dita), is grateful for the recent award of “large, competitive grants.”

One will allow The Hutch to continue the bone-marrow transplantation work pioneered by Dr. E. Donnall Thomas, who won the Nobel Prize for his work, and died Oct. 20 at 92. (His partner in life and research, Dottie Thomas, attended the gala.)

“The grant allows us to celebrate what he’s done,” Appelbaum said.

Grace Heffernan Arnold Guild President Amy Watkins and her army of volunteers bathed the grand ballroom in purple and silver, and filled the program with auction items that included dinner for 10 at the Canlis Family’s Whidbey Island retreat and seven nights for two in Dubai(!).

Dr. Jean Sanders, who was the only woman and the only pediatrician at The Hutch when she got there in 1975, retired earlier this year. She still hears from patients she treated years ago.

“They are a part of your life forever,” she said..

Talking trash, eloquently

“This will not be the first time I pulled a hammy at a reading,” Jess Walter cracked when he walked onto the basketball court at Seattle University’s Connolly Complex the other night.

The author of several books, including this year’s “Beautiful Ruins,” had been invited by friend and author Sherman Alexie to join him, writer Shann Ray and poet Natalie Diaz for “Four on the Floor,” a night of sharing words — on hardwood.

The night was broken into quarters, like a basketball game, during which each writer took a turn reading a section of a story, or a poem.

At halftime, they took to the half-court to play a variation of “H-O-R-S-E,” called “O-D-E.” Walters and Alexie finished first, which was a bit of an upset, since both Ray and Diaz were college stars (Ray at Pepperdine, Diaz at Old Dominion) and played professionally overseas.

“When I go home, I am going to say that I won,” Diaz said.

The event was curated by Elliott Bay Book Company’s chief bookseller Rick Simonson, who once served as a ball boy for the Sonics and did the same for these writers, keeping balls away from the audience — and the book table. (“Tonight, my old moves came back,” he said.)

Alexie said he will set foot in Seattle’s new arena only if it holds an expansion team. He wouldn’t want to do to another city what Oklahoma City did to us, he said, and poach a team.

“That’s the only way I will survive,” he said.

How far we’ve come

The last thing you want to do at a 7:30 a.m. breakfast is close your eyes.

But people did it at Friday’s World AIDS Day Breakfast, when Lauren Simonds of Rosehedge/Multifaith Works asked them to remember those affected by the disease.

“It’s like being punched in the stomach to be reminded of how many have been lost,” Seattle City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen told me. “I know hundreds. Gone. So much of their lives ahead of them.”

But so much has been accomplished, too, in the fight against AIDS. Awareness, improved drug treatments and a strong community.

Fred Swanson, the executive director of Gay City, said that the work done in the ’80s “wasn’t all for naught.

“There are great organizations in Seattle, and we all have to work together to be more successful.”

Wakefield, the external-relations director for the HIV Vaccine Trials Network at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, received the AIDS Service Award.

“We are in a moment of progress,” he said. “We’ve gone from a president who couldn’t say the word (AIDS) to one who has a plan.”

Ring those bells

This is the weekend same-sex couples have been waiting for, and I am thrilled to serve as your unofficial Vows columnist, and spread a few bits of happy news.

Among the weddings being held this Sunday is that of Elliott Bay Book Company event guru Karen Maeda Allman and book agent Elizabeth Wales, who are already 15 years into ever after.

Chef Stuart Wilber and artist John Breitweiser, together for more than 30 years, will be married at their Madison Valley home by Space Needle spokeswoman Mary Bacarella.

Wherever you are on Sunday, raise a glass to these fine folks, all the other lovers who waited so long to say “I do,” and the stateful of neighbors who made their marriages possible.

Those who voted against it, well, watch for flying bouquets.

Parting words

From Ken Saysette, of Mill Creek, one of the hundreds who lined up as early as Saturday evening for Sunday’s third annual Ten Club Poster Sale, which featured rare Pearl Jam merchandise and the work of poster artists like the Ames Bros., Chuck Sperry, Frank Kozik, Frida Clements, Munk One and Maxx 242, and raised money for Heal EB, a nonprofit aimed at finding a cure for the skin condition epidermolysis bullosa:

“I have Pearl Jam skate shoes and a skate deck, and I don’t even skateboard. They should have a Pearl Jam ‘Hoarders’ show, because I would definitely be on it.”

Names in Bold appears Tuesdays. Reach Nicole at 206-464-2334; Twitter: @nicolebrodeur . Subscribe on Facebook: