On a balmy summer evening, Nina Garcia invited her fashion and charitable-minded friends and colleagues to Reed Krakoff's Madison Avenue boutique for an intimate shopping and champagne event. The purpose? To build buzz for the Alzheimer's Association's annual Rita Hayworth Gala on October 23. Guests included prominent supporters like Muffie Potter Aston, Michele Herbert, and Yaz Hernandez.
But the summer hasn't even officially started, you may be thinking. Don't kickoff parties typically occur a month or so before the actual event? Well, it depends how much money the organization is trying to raise. For the Alzheimer's Association, which raises something in the vicinity of $1.5 million annually and has raised over $54 million since its founding by Princess Yasmin Aga Khan in 1987, it is never too early to start soliciting support. These are major numbers in the charity circuit.
For both the Gala Chair and its Steering Committee, that amounts to essentially a year's worth of planning. Robin Meltzer, this year's event chair, said that she has been working in earnest on the Gala planning since January: securing honorees, auction packages, corporate sponsorship and the like. 2010 Gala Co-Chair Chele Chiavacci added that, the morning after each Gala, the Steering Committee meets to discuss the prior night's event in detail. A Gala chair is then chosen by December.
But it is not entirely all work and no play for these tireless philanthropists. They are planning one of the most lavish parties of the season, after all. Getting to oversee the entertainment, decor and food proved a highlight for Chiavacci. "My year we did three tastings at the Waldorf," she enthused. "Getting a behind-the-scenes tour of the Waldorf's kitchens alone was worth it."
While there is a lot of work and dedication involved, everyone concurred that the cause made it all worthwhile. Nearly every guest I spoke to had a relative or close friend who suffered from Alzheimer's, which I suppose should not be surprising, given that an estimated 5.4 million Americans currently live with the disease. That "close to home" factor clearly galvanizes people to work that much harder for a cure, and indeed these women do work hard. Later in the summer, Meltzer and her husband will open up their Hamptons home for another soiree to benefit the Association. Between now and then, more networking will be done, and more sponsorships will be secured.
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