As the social season hits a high note, we pause in our mad dash to the next fabulous function to look back at our towns’ most memorable galas of the past year.
A sold-out Cinco de Mayo-themed event for 320 guests raised more than $138,000 at Opus for Person-to-Person’s spring 2014 gala. Located at Wee Burn Beach Club in Rowayton, the event was the largest benefit in the Darien group’s history as well as most profitable gala in five years. Opus fundraisers have been growing in popularity in recent years, for a few reasons. The galas funnel funds to an excellent nonprofit (Person to Person) and are also colorful and downright fun. The 2014 event featured live mariachi music, a Don Julio Tequila tasting and more live music by the Jay Stollman Band.
Best Opening Act
Entertainment at galas for local nonprofits is often top-notch, but Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan took the live performance to the next level at its November 2013 benefit when Cyndi Lauper took the stage at Cipriani 42nd Street in Manhattan. The pop icon opened with her song “Fearless” and closed out the set with her classic hit, “True Colors.” The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer helped to raise $850,000 in financial assistance for people in need of Silver Hill’s long-term residential treatment programs.
Never a nonprofit to deliver the same old, same old, Family Centers put the exotic in event planning at its annual gala last spring. For Chinatown: Night of the Dragon, the historic Greenwich Armory was transformed into a Chinese pagoda for the 325 guests who enjoyed the atmosphere of a street festival, along with Eastern music, multicolored dragons, martial arts demonstrations, a Confucius impersonator and a thrilling performance by the Chinese Lion Dancers. For thrill seekers, the Family Centers even provided the Dragon Wagon roller coaster.
Our communities are home to many media personalities, but it’s always fun when a big name comes in from out of town.
Arianna Huffington shared a very personal story with 300 guests at the Center for Hope luncheon in Darien last spring. After years of working around the clock to establish The Huffington Post, Ms. Huffington collapsed from exhaustion in 2007. She used the experience to re-evaluate the meaning of success, which she said is not measured by money, success and power alone. “If we value those things, we’ll never have enough,” she said. Among her secrets to creating a better work-life balance: keep smartphones out of the bedroom.
Sure, the venue (the Philip Johnson Glass House) was exquisite, the food (catered picnic by Elm) was sublime and the take-home gifts (bookmarks created with an onsite 3-D printer) were creative. Even so, the Glass House Summer Party benefit will be remembered for the fierce bidding. Among the excellent auction items were original artwork by Richard Barnes, Richard Serra and Adam Fuss, Nan Goldin, David Diao, Olaf Bruening, Holton Rower and Julia Chang. A private collector snapped up the Glass House overnight and dinner package, as well as a trip to Fogo Island, the Modernist resort in Newfoundland.
Voices of September 11, the nonprofit founded by New Canaan’s Mary Fetchet does nothing in a small way. The organization draws the most influential people in the world to its fundraisers, including former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was the keynote speaker at the 2013 Always Remember gala. Clinton talked about her experience visiting the World Trade Center site immediately after the attacks and about her belief that it’s important to “understand we have an obligation not only to remember the past but to imagine, and create, a better future.” The event’s emcee was veteran television personality Joan Lunden.
Steve Czech of New Canaan has been a big fan of Styx, and more specifically of the inimitable voice of Dennis DeYoung, since he was a teenager. The cofounder of the Mikey Czech Foundation thought friends and steadfast supporters of the nonprofit he and his wife founded might enjoy the music of this artist, too. So he asked DeYoung to perform live at the Woodway Country Club in Darien for the foundation’s fall gala coordinated by Moms for Mikey. The reception hall was transformed into an intimate concert venue complete with high-tech sound system and lights. DeYoung performed many of the band’s hits, including “Come Sail Away” and “Lady.”
The literary set went digital last April at Darien Library’s annual gala, which celebrated the library’s connections to technology and the arts. Along with great food, a live band and a performance by heliotrope stilt walkers, guests also interacted with drones and 3-D printers. Yet even with an emphasis on high-tech, the most coveted auction item was the promise of a great night’s sleep, in the library itself.
It’s one of Fairfield County’s largest charity benefits of the year, and it never disappoints. In late 2013, the annual gala for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation raised an awe-inspiring $2 million and attracted more than 1,000 supporters. On hand to help this very large crowd celebrate a very special evening was celebrity guest Berry Gordy, a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and founder of Motown who received the Spirit of Hope award. For entertainment, there were unforgettable performances by Grammy Award-winning artist Ne-Yo, Motown performers Chrisette Michele and Kevin Ross, and Broadway star Charl Brown.
Let It Roar
There are annual galas, and then there are milestone events. In 2014, Silvermine School of Art celebrated its ninetieth anniversary with a roaring 1920s-themed party that got guests of all ages into the spirit of the Jazz Age. A speakeasy décor and flapper-or-dandy dress code set the mood for a fine evening designed to delight the many avid fans and supporters of a true community gem.
Fan of our county’s beautiful coastline and the creatures that live beyond its shores loved the benefit for Norwalk’s Maritime Aquarium. The cocktail hour was passed in the fish-filled galleries of this local family favorite, and live performers dressed as mermaids and other mythical creatures of the sea enhanced the aquatic theme. In 2014, the event drew 440 people and raised a cool $7770,000 for the Red Apple Fund for Student Enrichment.
The Carriage Barn Arts Center is new to the social scene, yet the New Canaan nonprofit’s inaugural gala was one of the most enjoyable events of the year. This sold-out fundraiser was held in the open gallery of the historic carriage barn on the grounds of Waveny. At the Havana-themed party—which featured a live performance by Manchado, a good Afro-Latin jazz band—guests were given the opportunity to take in a unique exhibition of Cuban works from the private collection of Terri and Steven Certilman. These Greenwich residents, who sourced the art during their travels to Cuba over a 15-year period, are dedicated to promoting the nation’s talent.