New York City Mission Society Champions for Children Gala

Spring gala season is upon us — you can feel the electricity in the air.  NewYorkers just want to put on their festive dress and do the “Snoopy Happy Dance” to celebrate the end of the interminable winter.  Last night I attended the New York City Mission Society’s Champions for Children Gala at the Mandarin Oriental where, despite the confluence of the TIME 100 Gala taking place simultaneously at Lincoln Center, was nonetheless sold out.

Cathy Hughes

For more than 200 years, the Mission Society has been instrumental in fighting the war on poverty with programs and services for underserved communities citing 10,394 people served with up to 91% of their Learning to Work program graduating high school compared to 41% citywide. Students from their GRIOT music program (100% if which can read and play an instrument) were in attendance, jamming away to summon attendees in to dinner.

Erin McCabe, William C. Thompson Jr. and Elsie McCabe Thompson

The gala celebrated the organization’s president Elsie McCabe Thompson, paid tribute to  Director Emeritus/Actress Dina Merrill Hartley who died last year, and bestowed awards on LTC Francis W. Kairson, Jr. (Director Emeritus, who wore an impressive array of “chest candy”), Mannie Jackson (Philanthropist, businessman, author, documentary producer, former professional basketball play and former owner of the Harlem Globetrotters), and Cathy Hughes, Founder and Chairperson, Urban One, Inc. (the largest African-American owned and operated, broadcast company in the nation) who received the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Bill Ritter

The plan to launch the Minisink Charter School located in Central Harlem was announced as an exciting new chapter, one in which the organization hopes to “shape even grander outcomes for our children.” As always Bill Ritter, Co-Anchor of WABC-TV served as M.C., this year expressing his concern that perhaps due to the upcoming tax cuts which will be felt in 2018, many in the audience would not have the ability to donate to this good cause. Everybody’s got the right to their (political) opinion but I personally don’t agree that the tax reorganization affects this level of philanthropy — sorry Bill.

Jean Shafiroff, Randi Schatz, and Katrina Peebles

During the cocktail hour the philanthropic and the well heeled and equally well dressed took their turns in front of the Step and Repeat for their photo op before the somewhat thinned out media presence (at least from what I remember last year) — again, maybe the TIME 100 had something to do with that. Gala Co-Chairs Jean Shafiroff (in a stunning B. Michael geometric Pop Art strapless floral gown) gave remarks at the dinner while Katrina Peebles looking very sleek in black and pink, introduced the award presentations. Everyone spoke of what an important function the Mission Society serves along with the importance of donations in order to “level the playing field” in a world of have and have-nots. Other honorees included BNY Mellon and IFF International Flavors & Fragrances, Inc.

Victor dE Souza, and Tanja Dreiding Wallace

Back to the fashion on display, I would crown Designer Victor dE Souza king for his amazing tiered, beaded and embroidered woodland inspired gown and brocade cape ensemble, worn beautifully by Tanja Dreiding Wallace who says she owns about 12 of Victor’s amazing creations. He recently made the most incredible crystal embellished mask/headdress for the Save Venice gala last Friday night, which was also worn to perfection by Ms. Shafiroff. The extra tall plume at the top not only gave her stature but, according to the designer, special wire had to be sourced at the hardware store in order to lend support to the feather, reminding me of the “Unconventional Materials” challenges on Project Runway.

From left: Natalie Ross, Lucia Hwong Gordon and Susan Fales-Hill.

Unfortunately for those itching to get their boogie on, but fortunately for the Mission Society, an auction by Hugh Hildesley, Vice President of Sotheby’s (which raised $55,000) along with a myriad of speeches by presenters and honorees severely cut into the entertainment portion of the evening. By the time Alex Donner & His Orchestra launched into Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September” to lure partiers out to the dance floor, many of the crowd (including me) were well past their bedtime.

As I headed out into a steady drizzle, not a taxi in sight for what seemed like an eternity, I cursed the TIME 100 Gala for the unwelcome addition of rain on the soles of my previously unworn (and still un-danced in) shoes.

– Laurel Marcus

Laurel Marcus

OG journo major who thought Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" was a fashion guide. Desktop comedienne -- the world of fashion gives me no shortage of material.

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