The Boys & Girls Club; the Most Important Club of Them All

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Thomas Peterffy's $10 million Call to Heart pledge at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County's Winter Gala.

Palm Beach — town of clubs. The Everglades. The Beach Club. The B&T. Club Colette. The Carriage House. Across the bridge, The Boys & Girls Club. And the Billionaire Boys Club pays dues to it as well.

We walked into The Breakers for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County Winter Gala. “Swans” and men of stature filled the Mediterranean Courtyard for cocktails. Inside the Venetian Ballroom, they coalesced into tables of longtime friends.


Cocktails in the Mediterranean Courtyard of The Breakers for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County Winter Gala.
Dinner in the Venetian Ballroom.

After dinner, Steve Wynn illustrated you don’t have to be serious to raise serious money, kicking off fundraising thusly: “Men put on their tuxedos. Women put on their outfits, fix their hair. Everybody says, ‘oh your wife is beautiful, your wife is beautiful.’ … It’s always about them!” In at least one respect, it was about them both. Wynn kicked off the Call to Heart, pledging $100,000 with wife Andrea.

Then, Jennifer and David Fischer pledged $100,000. Then, Amy and John Phelan.


Vera Serrano, Eddy Taylor, Lynne Wheat, and Tom Quick presiding over the live auction.

Then, the grand finale. Lynne Wheat, chairing for the second year, said, the “cat was out of the bag.” Last year’s “anonymous” donor of seven million dollars was her longtime companion Thomas Peterffy. “And this year,” she smiled, “Thomas Peterffy is donating ten million dollars!”

And with that, down came the balloons, up came the video fireworks, on came the music, and everyone — everyone — filled the dance floor and partied. It was electric.


The balloon drop …
The (jammed) dance floor.

Fourteen and a half million dollars was raised that night, including one million from William Lauder and Lori Kanter Tritsch and $100,000 from Top of Mind Foundation: Meg Braff, Dustin Mizell, John Rogers, and Scott Snyder.

“There are 20 Boys & Girls sites throughout the county of Palm Beach,” Tim Tracy, Vice President of Development & Corporate Relations, told me. “We serve over 13,000 children. Ten million of what was raised will go towards our $50 million campaign, some towards the new Julie and Mike Connors Club in the Dreher Park area of West Palm Beach.”

Supporting Lynne Wheat were Co-chairs Jennifer Fischer, Audrey Gruss, Amy Phelan and Andrea Wynn.


Lynne Wheat and Thomas Peterffy with PBC Boys & Girls Club Youth of the Year Alonza Lloyd.
President & CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs Jaene Miranda with PBC Boys & Girls Club members.

The cause is a natural fit for Jennifer and Ambassador David Fischer, who as its Ambassador, represented Morocco, as 1/4 of the The Abraham Accord. They also advocated for Moroccan youth. “My husband and I both believe in giving children a safe place to find mentoring and support,” Jennifer told me.

“Education or jobs training is absolutely paramount. But, you also need a good sense of self and some encouragement. The Boys & Girls Clubs are magnificent places for those things to happen. In Morocco, we worked very hard to give all that to the kids, to keep them learning during Covid and to teach them English, because it is the language of doing business.”


David and Jennifer Fischer with Pauline Pitt and Gerald Seay.

The Fischers still return several times a year, connecting Morocco, Israel and other Abraham Accords countries in business, to solidify the peace the Accord set in motion. “Morocco is America’s oldest ally, the first one to recognize the United States in 1777,” Jennifer continued.

“We have the longest unbroken treaty, signed in 1789. Morocco is a unique mixture of everything from Europeans to Arabs to Africans. It’s a beautiful, beautiful land, very peaceful, very safe. As the Ambassador’s wife, I drove myself everywhere in a Ford Explorer.


Mike, Julie, and Gregory Connors.
L. to r.: Martin and Audrey Gruss; Amy and John Phelan.
Carol and Earl Mack, with Carole Moran.
L. to r.: Andrea and Steve Wynn; Ann and Charles Johnson.
John Cassimus and Lexi Welden with Jennifer and Chris Harris.
L. to r.: Eddy and John Taylor; Charles and Amanda Schumacher.
Bill and Marianne Powers with Nicola and Jeffrey Marcus.
L. to r.: Susan and Chris Pappas; Brooks and Olympia Bishop.
Michael Donnell, Carlo Barel di Sant’Albano, and Tom Quick.
Hillie Mahoney, George Stamos, and Anne Fuchs.
L. to r.: Joe Pacetti and Karyn Lamb; James Borynack and Adolfo Zaralegui.
Laura Ingraham, Rick Pollack, and Karyn Lamb.
L. to r.: Mary and Lester Woerner; Vera Serrano and Allen Moore.
Thomas Rich and Suzanne VanNostrand with Wilbur Ross and Hilary Geary Ross.
L. to r.: Scott Snyder and Candy Hamm; Jeff Sophir and James Gielda.
Bob and Laura Reynolds with Bonnie McElveen-Hunter and Gil Kemp.
L. to r.: Deborah Norville and Karl Wellner; Betsy and Wally Turner.
Larry DeGeorge, with Lorna and Keith James.
Thomas Peterffy and Lynne Wheat.

The following week was the inaugural Baran Hunt Ball benefitting the Neil S. Hirsch Family Boys & Girls Club in Wellington. Chaired by longtime equestrians Georgina Bloomberg and Jenny Oz LeRoy, it revolved around an evening competition at Wellington International for the Kristen Baran $100,000 Exhibition Stake Class.

“It’s a whole different challenge when horses show under the lights,” Jenny explained. “There are shadows, noises, the jumbotron. So, these riders have been prepping their horses for weeks. We have juniors, amateurs and professionals. I’ll be rooting for everyone.”


The winning team at the Kristen Baran $100,000 Neil S Hirsch Boys & Girls Club Team Hunter Exhibition Stake Class: Brianne Goutal-Marteau, Grace Debney, and Clara Propp. 📸: Wellington International // Cassidy Klein

The trophy ceremony for the winning team with Jaene Miranda, co-chair Jenny Oz LeRoy, title sponsor Kristen Baran, Mitch Kates, and co-chair Georgina Bloomberg on hand.

The daughter of Warner Leroy, Jenny grew up amongst high flying Tavern on the Green and Russian Tea Room habitues and high jumping equestrians.

Over the summer, Jenny had a bad fall and wasn’t able to ride or jump until a few weeks ago. Let’s just say she’s very happy to be back in the saddle!

“I’ve been riding since I was five,” she continued. “It has saved me in a way I can’t explain or describe. Either you know, when you see horses you love them, or you just don’t get them. As a child who grew up very lucky and privileged, connecting with the Boys & Girls Club really affected me.

“In a town where kids are driving around in golf carts and six figure cars, ten miles away, other kids are in need. The Boys & Girls Clubs can help give them a future. Neil Hirsch was a dear friend. And this would mean a lot to him.”

Horses are also in Georgina Bloomberg’s soul. A medalled equestrian, she spends winters in Wellington, close to the International. “Being part of the horse show community is not just something we do,” she told me, “it’s who we are, my friends, my family. Now, my 12-year-old son loves it.”

Andrew Lustig and Alexandra Weiser.

But, no competing for Georgina this year. She gave birth in November. “I’m slowly trying to get back in the ring,” she continued. “But, I’m taking my time, to be home as much as I can. I love everything about this Wellington life, but there is another part to this town. So, it’s important to me to give back, with the Boys & Girls Clubs.”

The Baran Hunt Ball was the brainchild of equestrian judge and trainer Andrew Lustig and Neil Hirsch’s widow, Laura. Alexandra Weiser flew in from New York to perform the national anthem. The musical, she co-produced with Jill Furman, “Suff’s” (suffsmusical.com, about the women who passed the 19th Amendment), comes to Broadway this spring.

Weiser is also a Cantor in Rockville Center.

So there you have it: Cantors and canters in one night!


Mitch Kates and Kristen Baran.
L. to r.: Georgina Bloomberg and Alex Hammer; Hollis Pica and Jenny Oz LeRoy.
Jean and Martin Shafiroff.
L. to r.: Kamdon Kutchins and Pam Walkenbach; Alexandra Lanci and Kaela Genovese.
David William Coffin, Stacey Leuliette, with Grace and Randy Walker.

Photographs by CAPEHART (Winter Ball)

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