Friday, May 27, 2022. A sunny and warm but breezy yesterday in New York. In my neighborhood the was the double the activity, of the two girls’ schools letting out early for the holiday, and neighbors preparing their cars for the trip to wherever they’ll spend the holiday weekend.
Plus there’s the daily traffic confections whatwith UPS, USPS and Fed Ex daily filling our roadway with scores of packages of all sizes and shapes heading for the apartment buildings on my block (and every other). And then there’s the daily moms, dads, nannys, dogs and neighbors on their way to or from the gorgeous Carl Schurz Park now in full bloom.
Which speaking of parks: Yesterday, the Playground Partners of the Women’s Committee of Central Park Conservancy hosted its Annual Family Party, a fundraiser for Central Park’s Playgrounds.
The well-attended event raised $470,000. Generously sponsored by Nordstrom, it was held at Heckscher Playground after a two-year hiatus, to support the Playground Partners’ mission to provide children and families with safe and accessible areas to play.
Event co-chairs were Anna Bender-Zeckendorf, Kara Gerson, Gillian Hearst, Dustee Jenkins, Ji Park Kwak and Stephanie X. Stamas. Grandparent Chairs Suzanne and Bob Cochran, Honorary Chair, Zanna Roberts Rassi, Playground Partners Chair, Heather McAuliffe, and Vice Chairs, Mimi Ritzen Crawford and Austen Phillips Cruz.
Women’s Committee President, Yesim Philip, and Central Park Conservancy’s CEO, Betsy Smith joined many other guests including Katherine Birch, Ainsley Earhardt, Darice Fadeyi, Tiffany Gardner, Amie James, Alexia Leuschen, Margo Nederlander, Liz Peek, Emmy Rossum, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Gigi Stone Woods, and Chris Wanlass, Vice President and General Manager of the Nordstrom New York City stores.
Meanwhile, moving into philanthropic history and culture: the 66th Viennese Opera Ball was held on Friday, May 13th at Cipriani 42nd Street, New York City. This annual white-tie gala is older than Vienna’s own tradition. It is the only gala in America with pageantry from the Habsburg Royal Houses.
The evening celebrates the cultural and economic relationships between the two countries — connecting two continents, two cities and two centuries in one glamorous evening.
Each year, the Ball supports charitable projects of New York and Vienna. This year appropriately benefits the musical therapy program at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center through Denise Rich’s Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation for Cancer Research.
The theme of the evening was A Night of Love with the fragrance of 20,000 red roses — courtesy of Royal Flowers and Luz Flora — decorating the ballroom. Their message was: “to send peace and love to our guests and to the world.”
Just as in Europe, the celebration led with Debutantes (flown in from France, Poland, Dubai and all over America), in tiaras and white gowns, dancing the Polonaise and Alles Walzer with their partners in white tie.
Ukraine’s Iurii Samoilov opened the evening’s program with a touching folk song from his homeland as a reminder of the tragedy happening back home. Samoilov made a heartfelt appeal for guests to donate to the Caritas Ukraine donation table at the Ball; an organization providing humanitarian assistance in the form of clothing, and necessary items to hundreds of people a week in Ukraine.
Artistic Director Daniel Serafin arranged an operatic concert with Donata D’Annunzio Lombardi, Carolina López Moreno, Johanna Will, and Matthew White. Conductor Vinicius Kattah led the Viennese Opera Ball Orchestra.
The 66th Viennese Opera Ball was under the gracious patronage of The President of the Republic of Austria, H.E. Alexander Van der Bellen. Denise Rich and Jean Shafiroff served as Gala Chairs. Junior Chairs were Emily Mohr and Colgate Rumbough, and Junior Vice Chairs were Diana Bocsha and Jolie Vanier.
Austria’s Leo Hillinger Winery donated the wine for the evening, with Hillinger in attendance himself.
Owner of A.E. Köechert jewelry, Wolfgang Koechert, presented a sparkling diamond star at the live auction. The magnificent ‘Sisi’ star was designed as a tribute to Empress Elisabeth (Sisi) of Austria and Queen of Hungary by marriage to Emperor Franz Joseph I. The 18kt white gold star has 1,30ct diamonds and can be worn as a brooch, pendant or hairpin. The Empress’ stars, of which she possessed 27, are amongst the most famous pieces of Austrian jewelry. Alexander Köchert, jeweler to the Imperial and Royal Court, designed and made most of these stars for the empress.
The 2022 debutante committee: Livia Bak, Elizabeth Barnes-Schwartz, Katherine Benham, Jessie Morgan Dennis, Anna Rebecca, Juliane Hennenberg, Sarah Humphrey, Sydney Jeter, Isabella Yuria Kailich, Marie-Sophie Krenn, Axelle Laurent-Josi, Ewelina Liszczyk, Karme Euryale Ondzague, Daphne Ariane Resch, Alexandra Karena Tomasitz, Ana Toncoglaz.
Meanwhile, a few days later, back to the real Dogs and Cats. The Animal Medical Center — newly named the Stephen & Christine Schwarzman Animal Medical Center — hosted the 14th Annual Living Legends Luncheon. They honored three pets, Pronto, Charli, and Scout, who overcame seemingly insurmountable health challenges thanks to the life-saving care and treatment they received at AMC, along with their owner’s love and commitment.
There were more than 150 attending including Marina Kellen French, Jenny Paulson, Mia Solow, and co-chairs Elaine Langone, Lisa Schiff, and Donna Acquavella. Additional co-chairs included Tina Pendergrast Santi Flaherty, Laura Garner, Michael Heaner, Nancy Kissinger, Sharon Amsterdam Koplin, Emilia S. Krimendahl, Robert Liberman, Ellen Marcus, Elizabeth Monaco McCarthy, Marianne Mebane, Elizabeth Moore, Kane Nussbaum, Katharine Rayner, Elizabeth Gore Ross, Nicole Seligman, Ann Tisch, and Janet York.
Kathryn Coyne, president and CEO, described it perfectly: “The Living Legends Luncheon is one of my favorite events of the year, because it gives us the opportunity to present some of the extraordinary work that goes on at the Schwarzman Animal Medical Center every single day. We come together to celebrate and recognize the incredible bond that exists between people and their pets.”
The AMC is the world’s largest non-profit animal hospital with 120+ veterinarians providing the highest quality medical care across more than 20 specialties and services, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Their mission to provide the best in care, research, and education which has been the foundation of its work for more than a century.
Wait, there’s more good news. The Fresh Air Fund held their annual Spring benefit honoring Morgan Stanley. Guests were invited to celebrate Fresh Air children and the power of fun. Carole Greene-Vincent, Managing Director and Chief Audit Officer of Morgan Stanley, accepted The Fund’s Award on behalf of the firm. Morgan Stanley has been very generous with their financial support of The Fund. It is one of its longest-serving corporate volunteer partners with more than 30 years of support.
Actor and comedian Tracy Morgan, former Fresh Air camper, hosted the Benefit held at the Ziegfeld Ballroom in Manhattan. Speakers included William Lauder, The Fund’s Chairman of the Board, Wendy Flanagan, The Fund’s Board President, and Fresh Air alumni. The event raised more than $1.89 million.
More than 500 Fresh Air friends and supporters gathered for cocktails, dinner, dancing, a high-spirited auction and dessert with a special camp treat of a s’mores bar!
This summer children will return to in-person safe outdoor experiences at camp and visits to volunteer-host families. The Fund will continue its new programs started during the pandemic including Summer Spaces on the streets of New York City, Family Wellness trips to camp and its Summer Teen Academy that offers leadership development through in-person and enriching virtual programming.
Since 1877, The Fresh Air Fund, a not-for-profit youth development organization, has provided free life-changing summer experiences in the outdoors to more than 1.8 million children from New York City’s underserved communities. Young people also participate in year-round leadership, career exploration and educational programs.
For more information, visit www.FreshAir.org.
Photographs by Darian DiCianno/BFA.com (Playground Partners); Jenna Bascom Photography (Fresh Air Fund); Michael Ostuni/Patrick McMullan (Viennese Ball).