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The Power of Philanthropy
Katie Bianco, Dena Levitz and Michael McCarthy | Photo: Greg Powers Styling by Alison Beshai | Hair and makeup by Logan 14 Photographed at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater | October 28, 2013
Giving never goes out of style. in addition to fundraising and fetes, this year we shine the spotlight on the next generation of philanthropists who are establishing themselves and their causes as remarkable examples of passion and persistence.
Fundraiser of the Season: Fight Night More than 1,600 of DC’s biggest influencers pack a glamorous punch for charity during the black-tie Fight Night, Nov. 14, at the Washington Hilton, with a goal this year of raising millions for Fight For Children, which improves quality K-12 education for the neediest children in the DC region. Never attended this high-flying event? Expect to see DC’s elite in business, government and entertainment in a refined yet raucous setting fit for cigar-smoking kings—and many princesses. This year’s event might eclipse all others, as nine-time Grammy winner John Legend takes center stage. “I’m so grateful to John Legend for agreeing to headline Fight Night,” says Raul Fernandez, Fight For Children chairman and vice chairman of Monumental Sports & Entertainment. Boxing, John Legend and an estimable charity—it’s a night to remember. $1,000, Washington Hilton, 1919 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202.483.3000, fightnightdc.org
The Cost Of Giving: Chic Charity! Here’s how to paint it red in the name of charity. We asked stylist to DC’s well-heeled, Alison Beshai, for a quick rundown of essential picks and price tags (most available at Saks Fifth Avenue, Tysons Galleria): Jimmy Choo jeweled leather pumps, $3,250; Prada clutch, $2,100; Vera Wang gown, $1,500-$2,000; Badgley Mischka strapless brocade gown, $890. If you want professional hair and makeup to match, it’ll run $500 for a house call, says Johny Sade, one half of a DC hair-and-makeup duo—recently transplanted from Hollywood—with red-carpet clients. And if you’d prefer to arrive in style, count on at least $150-$200 for a private car service.
Elizabeth Kane: The Networker Just call her the gadfly of good causes. Elizabeth Kane has parlayed her marketing and networking skills into CharityChicksUS (fundthechange.com), a group she founded in 2011 to serve as a bridge between corporations, nonprofits and young professionals. The concept is fairly simple: Match people with charitable groups that need their skills, and work with corporations by helping them funnel their dollars to good causes. Kane promotes and co-hosts events that raise both considerable funds and awareness about causes she personally selects. This past year alone, at the high-profile Cycle for Survival spin event, CharityChicksUS pulled thousands of dollars for Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center through a social-media campaign. Summer’s VIP Pink Party—a glamorous night of summer couture—also raises money for cancer. While attending George Washington University, Kane found that, while parties were hotbeds of excitement, charity events were sparsely attended. “I thought that there had to be a way to combine them,” she says. During the day, Kane is the senior marketing director for B.J. Kane & Co., and Health Care Advisors Inc. She also vets the charities that will be part of CharityChicksUS, meets with business contacts and sits on boards for many different charities. A typical night means hitting up multiple networking functions and parties to find new causes and contacts to support. “Young professionals have a voice,” she says. “We’ll be the future donor pipeline, so listen to us.”
The Woman to Trust: Scene-Maker Aimee Dominick is a gala planner who’s not content following last year’s script. As the mind behind the Starlight Mid-Atlantic Taste of the Stars Gala at the Four Seasons, Nov. 23, she believes risk-taking breeds memorable evenings and successful fundraising. “Last year with Starlight—which benefits more than 300,000 critically ill or hospitalized children—we decided to forgo the seated dinner,” says Dominick, president of A. Dominick Events. “Instead, we had standing tables with stools, and we served small plates, and dim sum carts rolled by. It was still incredibly elegant and memorable—but with movement. People loved it, and the night was a huge success for the charity.” More than anything, though, Dominick says she has to know her audience. “Having the trust of the gala’s chairs and committee is incredibly important,” she says. “After that, it’s about getting my vendors—talented people I work with all year—truly excited to partner on the gala.” Raising money and delivering a memorable night, of course, are the goals. “And if we surprise guests along the way, even better!”
Celebs In DC: Star Turns It’s no secret that Tinsel Town has a crush on the nation’s capital. And with Capitol Hill offering the perfect platform to raise awareness—and funding—for celebrities’ pet causes, the city hosts a who’s who of red-carpet regulars. Of late, Bradley Cooper, who played a man with bipolar disorder in the Oscar-nominated Silver Linings Playbook, was in town for a panel discussion about mental health at the Center for American Progress. Gala-goer and Glee star Matthew Morrison has parlayed his love of the arts into a Capitol Hill cause, appearing recently at the Washington Performing Arts Society annual gala; while Jennifer Hudson performed at Grammys on the Hill event promoting music education in schools. The DC-based Creative Coalition packs star power every year at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, but celebs—including Sharon Stone and Tracy Morgan—support the nonprofit’s mission throughout the year with multiple visits. Star power in DC, indeed.
Number Crunch: $3 million The fundraising goal of this fall’s Fight Night, held on Nov. 14. This seems lofty, to be sure, but the men and women behind Fight For Children raised an impressive $2.2 million in 2012. And since Joseph E. Robert Jr. founded the event in 1990, the glamorous evening has pulled together $38 million for the Washington region’s neediest children.
Top Five: Fab Fetes!
1. Knock Out Abuse Against Women Expect a stellar silent auction and high-voltage entertainment. Nov. 14, The Ritz-Carlton, 1150 22nd St. NW, knockoutabuse.org
2. Capital Ball The black-tie affair brings together like-minded young professionals to network and support Children’s National, one of the region’s shining stars for sick kids. Dec. 21, National Press Club, 529 14th St. NW,
3. Opening Night Gala An elegant dinner in Arena Stage’s gorgeous foyer is capped by the world premiere of Camp David by Pulitzer Prize winner Lawrence Wright. April 3, Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, 1101 Sixth St. SW, arenastage.org
4. Corcoran Ball The black-tie benefit features formal dining rooms set inside galleries brimming with priceless art—from contemporary photography to paintings. April 25, Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1700 17th St. NW, corcoran.org/ball
5. Kennedy Center Gala Sip cocktails on River Terrace, followed by dinner on the Center Roof Terrace, a performance in the Opera house and dancing until midnight. May 4, The Kennedy Center, 2700 F St.,
Taylor Price: The Advocate Weeks from beginning his freshman year at Georgetown University, Taylor Price suffered a devastating accident. The then-18-year-old dived into the ocean in Westhampton Beach, N.Y., struck a sandbar and broke his C 5/6 vertebrae. The injury kept Price hospitalized for months and ultimately left him a quadriplegic. Price pledged to still attend Georgetown—he earned his undergraduate degree, a master’s and now works for the Department of Homeland Security. Price has become an advocate for those with spinal-cord injuries and a devotee of charitable causes. He even introduced the Employer Worker Incentive Act to expand employment opportunities for the disabled.
During his time at Georgetown, Price helped launch one of the university’s largest scholarship funds. Since 2007, the Peter F. Karches Scholarship Fund, named for a friend’s father who died of leukemia, has granted upward of $8 million. Price also works with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation by offering the organization advice and speaking to groups about spinal-chord injuries.
Price’s latest project is to help bring NextStep—founded by a Georgetown alum—to DC. Based in California, NextStep provides exercise and rehab equipment at a low cost for mobility-impaired individuals. Price is a member of the steering committee working to raise money for the endeavor. There’s nothing even close to that caliber locally, Price says, which is why he became involved. Price says he sees his disability as happening for a reason—so that he could give back. “After the accident, I was overwhelmed with support,” he says. “I know how good that made me feel, so it’s only furthered my commitment to philanthropy.” Given the millions he’s helped raise—and the millions more to follow—it’s a good bet that Price’s passion will lead to better lives for those with similar injuries.
Laura Toscano: The Teacher For Laura Toscano, raising awareness, fundraising and delivering meals to the hungry are only part of her mission. Perhaps the most important element of her world is teaching the next generation a range of ways to address the issue of hunger. It’s an utterly complex issue with ramifications that impact every community in the DC region. As the director of fast-growing The Campus Kitchen Project (campuskitchens.org)—a national outreach effort of DC Central Kitchen—Toscano now partners with high schools and universities to recover food that would have gone to waste on campuses. The recovered food is turned into nutritious meals for those in need. “I’ve never been a fan of the traditional charity model, which so often throws resources at the immediate symptoms without ever addressing its root causes,” Toscano says. “I’m interested in nonprofits that are finding the levers of change that will shake up the system.”
Toscano, a Yale University graduate, and her CKP team show students at each school—33 presently—how to assess needs and develop programs for their community. She and her team have secured $500,000 in new and expanded partnerships this year alone. Presently, more than 5,000 students are volunteering with Campus Kitchens annually. Toscano wants to reach 200 campuses by the end of 2015. “I find the dedication of student-volunteers to be really inspiring,” she says. “Their daily commitment to service, as well as their optimism and engagement, makes me really hopeful.”
Shops Give: Altruette When Julie Schlosser and Lee Clifford quit their jobs at Fortune on the same day, they wanted to do something that was both fulfilling and philanthropic—and Altruette was born. The jewelry company launches a new line of luxe gold pendants in December that benefits Room to Read, which expands literacy in developing countries. “For the new line, we donate a book for each charm sold,” says Schlosser. “We also give 50 percent of the net profit to the charity the charm represents.” The ultimate gold wrist gift this season is
the Founder’s Circle. $3,135, Bloomingdale’s, Chevy Chase; altruette.com
A Go-To Stylist: Alison Beshai The DC-based stylist outfits fabulous women for the city’s most glamorous galas. We caught up with her to find out what’s next for philanthropy fashion.
What are your clients wearing for gala season?
Women in DC like to wear classic dresses. Ralph Lauren and Vera Wang are both popular with my clients, who are also adventurous with their accessories from places like Saks and Bloomingdale’s. That’s where they can stand out!
Who sets the tone for philanthropic fashion?
We’ve seen a Michelle Obama effect, but the gala-goers themselves are setting the pace. These ladies know they’re going to be seen by their circle of friends, and they always dress to impress.
How would you define DC’s gala fashion?
It’s elegant, but unexpected—like a classic navy Elie Tahari dress with a fabulous and sparkly Jimmy Choo shoe.
Giving Abroad: Considering a holiday this season? Luxury volunteerism is the only way to go!
Unparalleled pampering, exalted hospitality and above-par accommodations notwithstanding, Micato Safaris (micato.com) shines for its philanthropic endeavors and dedication to the African community. Micato’s One-for-One Commitment means that, for every safari sold, Micato Safaris supports the education fees for an impoverished child. Through its AmericaShare program, Micato has developed a community center, inclusive of a library; a sports center; and clean-water source in Kenya’s second-largest slum, Mukuru. Safari-goers can visit Mukuru for a day on any Micato safari that begins or ends in Nairobi and witness the outfitter’s philanthropy in action through its Lend a Helping Hand on Safari program. Most travelers find this experience eye-opening and inspirational. In fact, volunteerism can be heavily integrated into any life-changing Micato safari sojourn, peppering luxurious jaunts in the savanna with constructive time in local communities. A good time and a great cause—we’ve just upped the ante on your next vacation!—Paul Rubio