*Scroll down for the stylish slideshow*
These days, there are few events for which New Yorkers truly dress up. The annual Costume Institute Gala -- co-hosted by Vogue -- is one of them. Opening night at the Metropolitan Opera is another.
I'd argue that the third fete in that trinity is the annual fall gala of the New Yorkers for Children, a charitable organization that gives support to the city's foster care children.
The red carpet leading into the event - which took place this week at Cipriani 42 -- rivals that of the Oscars; towncars idle three-deep at the curb. Last-season dresses are rarely donned; after all, Anna Wintour and Oscar de la Renta reign over the charity's board of directors, and within certain circles, a fashion faux pas on this stage would be the kiss of death.
This year's attendees did not disappoint: I doubt that there have been so many full-skirted ballgowns in one room since the Twelve Oaks ball in Gone with the Wind. "Skirt walls," sighed one exasperated gentleman as he tried to make his way through the crowded, taffeta-filled room. See a slideshow below of some of the more extravagant ensembles.
"You all look fierce and gorgeous," model Selita Ebanks, the evening's emcee, told the crowd. Ms. Ebanks didn't look so shabby herself (understatement alert: she is a glorious-looking creature). But offstage, she told me about a far less glamorous time in her life, a childhood spent partly in foster care.
"I was only six years old," she said. "My mother was homeless and struggling to provide for our family. There were so many organizations that helped my mother to raise our family. I'm not sure where I would be today if I hadn't been blessed with that amazing support system."
On the New Yorkers for Children specially: "For young people placed in foster care, this kind of support can mean the difference between success and failure in life."
Halfway through the dinner, glowsticks were handed out to the guests: would there be some sort of a rave after dessert?
Not exactly. Sotheby's Vice Chairman Jamie Niven commandeered the stage, and began an auction: guests were instructed to hold up these glowsticks to make bids. What happened next was electrifying. Niven began by asking for donations of $50,000, which would send a foster child to college for four years.
Suddenly, someone raised a blue stick above the sea of heads. Soon after, a second streak of blue light went up. And then a third.
Each time a glowstick went into the air, a future was made, just like that.
In total, the auction raised over $400,000.
There were several people in the room who knew just how much that sum meant, such as Basilia Verduzco, a one-time foster child and now the New Yorkers For Children Inaugural Guardian Scholar.
"There are times when we feel lost, hopeless, alone, sad, mad, helpless," she told me. "New Yorkers For Children was the helping hand I needed. Sure, there is a slim chance I would have made it on my own, but NYFC helped me beat the odds."
See who attended the Gala in the slideshow below.
About New Yorkers For Children:
New Yorkers For Children (NYFC) is the non-profit organization that partners with the Administration for Children's Services to improve the lives of children in foster care in New York City. Since 1996, NYFC has made a difference in the lives of these youth through college scholarships, tutoring programs, job training, and networking opportunities. There are over 16,000 children in foster care in New York City, and NYFC is committed to providing them with the essential tools to become successful, self-sufficient adults. For further information, please visit www.newyorkersforchildren.org.
The 2010 Fall Gala was presented by CIRCA.