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By the time Gladys Knight was singing her farewell to Jackson Sunday night, the audience was cheering, some people were dancing and thousands of dollars were raised to fight Alzheimer's disease.
"The event was a wonderful success. We had a sold-out show," said Dr. Tom Mosley, director of the MIND (Memory Impairment and Neurodegenerative Dementia Research) Center, part of the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
"Gladys Knight's talent and powerful voice helped us raise awareness and money for the important work we're doing at the MIND Center to find treatments for Alzheimer's and related dementia."
The benefit concert helped raise more than $240,000 for the MIND Center, and the support of the audience and corporate sponsors was repeatedly noted during the event.
"To every one of you here, I know you've come to see Gladys Knight as I have, but these tickets that you bought are going to help us move forward and hopefully find a cause and maybe a cure for these awful diseases that we are dealing with now," said former UMMC Vice Chancellor James E. Keeton.
Attendees at the concert included Gov. Phil Bryant and First Lady Deborah Bryant, both of whom Keeton thanked for their endless support of the Medical Center and its mission.
"You have both been great friends of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and particularly Mrs. Bryant to the Children's Hospital," said Keeton. "We appreciate both of you and what you do for us."
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper and Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber also were in attendance during the concert.
Walking out on the stage to a roaring crowd, Knight was all smiles as she began a 90-minute set of her classic and new materials, mixed with a surprise duet of Pharrell William's "Happy" with her brother and former Pip, Bubba Knight.
The Empress of Soul and her brother both thanked the MIND Center for its work, a cause echoed by other speakers during the event.
Mosley, Patricia McClure and Palmer during the pre-concert sponsor party
Former Ambassador John Palmer, chairman of the MIND Center Advisory Board, pointed out the plethora of sponsors who made the concert and the MIND Center's mission possible.
Jan Michaels, the local marketing director for iHeartRadio, gave an emotional speech about the impact of Alzheimer's on her family, stressing the importance of the MIND Center and its research.
"It is 100 percent incurable, and it is 100 percent fatal," she said. "Since 2010, deaths from Alzheimer's disease have skyrocketed by 68 percent, while deaths from other major diseases have declined.
"The MIND Center is a national leader in Alzheimer's research and is conducting one of the most comprehensive studies ever undertaken to identify the risk factors," added Michaels. "The good news is that researchers at the MIND Center are working to change this."
Jermichael Riley leads the Mississippi Mass Choir at a party for sponsors of the Gladys Knight benefit concert for the MIND Center. The choir sang several songs at the pre-concert event hosted at the Mississippi Museum of Art shortly before the concert on Sunday night.
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