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J.T. Snow leads fight against genetic disorder

HAMLIN MANSION — Giants right fielder Hunter Pence went straight from a sweep at the hands of the Colorado Rockies to swanky Pacific Heights to partake in another competition Sunday night.

Photos by Gavin McIntyre/SFBay

Pence joined former Giant J.T. Snow at the historic Hamlin Mansion for the Snowman Classic: An iron chef-like cocktail competition to raise money to research Wolfram syndrome, a rare genetic disorder.

Snow’s niece, nine-year-old Raquel, is stricken with it.

Pence’s cocktail — a strange mix of bourbon, fresh lemon juice and strawberries — lost to elaborate concoctions by The City’s finest mixologists, like Burritt Room’s Josh Trabulsi, Rye’s Julie Thompson and, the eventual winner, Seth Laufman from Comstock Saloon.

Pence told SFBay he wasn’t at all thrilled with his final product:

“If I could give my cocktail a grade it would be negative 500,000 billion trillion.”

Though Pence suffered his second loss of the day, his odd drink stood for a winning cause: Snow’s foundation. The Jack and J.T. Snow Foundation is a scientific research foundation started by the six-time Golden Glove winner and his late father and former Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Jack Snow.

Pence was happy to be a part of the cause for a close friend:

“This is a case that is close to home for [J.T.], and they’re close to a cure. As a member of the San Francisco community, these are things that can make a difference.”

Snow joined Portland Trail Blazers center and former Stanford Cardinal Robin Lopez and Twenty-Five Lusk restaurant head chef Matthew Dolan as the official cocktail judges.

Former Top Chef contestant Ryan Scott and Miss California Crystal Lee emceed to a crowd of a couple of hundred Bay Area residents who paid $200 for a ticket to see the show.

Attendees dressed in their Sunday night best bid in a silent auction for highly covetable sports regalia, ranging from a signed basketball by Warriors forward David Lee to a jersey autographed by Willie Mays himself.

The money raised will be contributed directly to a research clinic at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., reportedly at the brink of discovering a treatment for Wolfram Syndrome.

Wolfram Syndrome occurs in 1 in 200,000 Americans. It can cause Type 1 diabetes along with loss of sight and hearing, and slowly incapacitates the central nervous system. Life expectancy for the afflicted is around thirty years of age.

Snow’s sister, Stephanie Snow Gebel, found out her daughter Raquel, now nine, had Wolfram just four years ago. She took action:

“I was in denial, but in a good way. I was devastated in the beginning, but Washington University was the only place that was studying this in depth and (since teaming up) we’ve come a long way in a short amount of time.”

The money raised through the foundation will go toward Dr. Fumihiko Urano’s research at the university.

Dr. Urano’s team is at the brink of discovering a preventative treatment through already-FDA-approved drugs. Should further research prove successful, Urano will have found a way to prevent Wolfram’s harsh symptoms from worsening.

Dr. Urano said the clinic needs just one final push before it achieves a medical miracle:

“We’re at the 90 yard line, almost in the end zone. We’ve been testing it on animals and it has worked, we just need to test it on a few more. The money raised here will go toward that.”

The next goal Dr. Urano is eyeing is to find a cure — to develop a drug that will eliminate the disease from its victims all together.

He and his team are already collecting cells from young patients, like Raquel, to continue research.

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