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Race to Erase MS Gala Raises $2M

Tommy Hilfiger co-chairs the Race to Erase MS gala in Los Angeles and auctions time at his vacation home for the cause.

LOS ANGELES — Despite the economic malaise, fund-raising was in full swing at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza here Friday night when Nancy Davis and Tommy Hilfiger co-chaired the 16th annual Race to Erase MS gala.

The annual charity event raises millions to support research to find a cure for multiple sclerosis, a chronic neurological disease. Davis, daughter of the late billionaire Marvin Davis, was diagnosed with MS almost 18 years ago.

This year’s event was themed “Rock to Erase MS” and featured performances by the legendary band the Eagles and Michelle Branch.

Hilfiger said organizers revised fund-raising expectations because of the recession, but he and Davis were more than pleased with the generosity of donors and sponsors.

This year’s tally was about $2 million — closer than expected to last year’s $2 million-plus. The galas have raised a total of more than $30 million.

“I was worried, but, in fact, we’ve been surprisingly successful,” Hilfiger said. “Nancy is just relentless about her dedication to this, and that drove me to be a part of it. ”

A substantial portion of the money was raised at the evening’s live auction, featuring the first Lamborghini Gallardo sports car in the U.S., which sold for $270,000, as well as a weeklong stays at Hilfiger’s vacation home and even a Maltese puppy that attracted lots of attention and commanded a winning bid of $6,500.

Actress Angie Harmon checked out the canine, but opted not to bid. “My husband would kill me, and I think our other dogs might eat that poor little thing,” said Harmon, who has a French Bulldog and a Greater Swiss Mountain Dog at home with husband Jason Sehorn, the former New York Giants football star. Harmon said her eyes were on footwear, rather than potential pets. “What I’m really coveting are [Amanda Bynes’] gold YSL shoes. Aren’t they amazing?”

Harmon didn’t leave empty-handed. She paid $45,000 for one of the vacation stints at Hilfiger’s beach home, as did Jamie Tisch, wife of New York Giants co-owner Steve Tisch.

Among the other guests were Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Dustin Hoffman, Penny Marshall, Sela Ward, Bill Maher, Anne Heche, Teri Garr, Avril Lavigne, Jewel and Kim Kardashian.