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Christina Lawrence with contributions by Luis R. Rigual & Paul Rubio | Photo: Main portraits by Nick Garcia | Carlos Betancourt/courtesy of Friends of Miami Marine Stadium; Sonja Garnitschnig and Moca | Hair & makeup by Beatriz Villalobos & Marcelo Beguez/Rik Rak | October 21, 2013
For some individuals, helping others is the most precious gift of all. Meet the city’s next generation of philanthropists—folks for whom giving back has been a way of life since they were born—as well as the supporting players who bring the social side of charity to life through their respective talents. Plus: all the a-list events you simply can’t miss this season!
Gals of the Season: Beautiful Music From its founding 25 years ago, the New World Symphony has held an annual gala, but since the grand opening of its new Frank Gehry-designed campus in 2011, it’s taken on a new focus. “The planning of the NWS gala essentially begins as soon as the previous one is done,” says Craig Hall, VP of communications for NWS, “and the theme is tied to the music to be performed, from the decor to the invitations to the food and wine.” In 2012 it was a Hitchcock-inspired Evening of Suspense, while this past February’s 25th anniversary edition featured a West Side Story theme. At the next one (Feb. 8, 2014), Hall hints, “We are celebrating our extraordinary achievements in experimentation and technology. And that’s all I’m giving away.” But he does promise one thing: “It will be special.” Single tickets start at $2,500, tables from $25,000 to $250,000, nws.edu
The Hottest Ticket: At Last! Despite the initial controversy that swirled when the Miami Art Museum was rechristened the Pérez Art Museum Miami, or PAMM, after mega-developer Jorge Pérez, the most palpable emotion swirling as the grand opening looms is excitement. On Dec. 7, one of the most highly anticipated charity events of the year will take place: the Premiere Pérez Art Museum Miami Gala will be peopled by 700 VIPs from Miami and beyond. Guests will enjoy a dinner catered by Stephen Starr, dancing among the sculptures of the 29-acre Museum Park and a performance by Marc Anthony. “I expect it to be one of our most successful fundraisers to date,” says PAMM Director Thom Collins, whose tux is pressed and ready to go, “and I guarantee a magical evening.” One that many will be clamoring to gain entry to, no doubt. pamm.org
Sarah Arison: “One of my first and most meaningful memories is walking into Lincoln Theatre holding my grandparents’ hands,” says Sarah Arison, granddaughter of prominent philanthropists Ted and Lin Arison. “I was standing between them, and I just remember looking in awe at all the people dressed up to see the New World Symphony. When the music started, it was so magical, and I could see that everyone around me felt the same thing.” Now, at 28, Arison is on the boards of both the New World Symphony and the National YoungArts Foundation that her grandparents founded, and focuses on developing their regional programs in order to recognize and support more young artists. “I’m always trying to recruit new board members and donors, and just spread the word about these fantastic organizations in general,” she says. “By making young people familiar with philanthropies and everything that they can do to help, they will hopefully develop a relationship with the organization and be involved for the rest of their lives.” And it’s working! Arison says she has been extremely impressed by the involvement of young patrons not only with YoungArts, but also New World Symphony, MOCA and the Miami City Ballet. “The younger people in Miami are so passionate and involved,” she says. “With the advent of Art Basel, Miami immediately became an international cultural destination, and the Design District and Wynwood have enhanced that concept so much. I think that the new YoungArts campus, the old Bacardi Building, will truly be a culmination of everything that has been going on in the arts in Miami... and take us to the next level.” Arison, who was in college on track to become a geneticist, but was compelled to change her career path after the mother of one of the artists with YoungArts thanked her for helping her son reach his artistic potential, remains inspired by her grandparents to this day. “I am constantly intimidated by the enormous shoes I have to fill,” she exclaims. “My grandparents are an inspiration in everything I do. I admire and respect them more than anyone on the planet, and I just want to continue what they started with the same mentality—helping as many young artists as possible, in every way possible.”
Cause Celeb: Local Savior Singer Gloria Estefan loves Miami, and her commitment to preserving historical sites is well documented, starting in the ’80s, when she and husband Emilio began investing in art deco-era properties and reviving them. Now Estefan is a driving force behind the restoration of the Miami Marine Stadium on Virginia Key, a floating amphitheater opened in 1963 that was declared unsafe after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Five years ago, Friends of Miami Marine Stadium was formed to revive the venue, and a new site plan for the stadium was approved in July by the City of Miami. Since then, efforts have begun to raise $20 million over the next two years so that the restoration can begin. “We’re committed to this because it’s part of the history of Miami,” the singer says. True to form, Estefan is more than just the face of the cause, actively floating various ideas for the future of the stadium such as a drive-in theater for boaters, over-water playing fields and, of course, musical performances. “You could have wonderful concerts here because the acoustics are really great,” she says, “and they’ll be even better once we complete construction.” Mmm, we can almost hear the opening beats of “Conga.” marinestadium.org
Event Par Excellence: The Party Alchemist Karla Dascal inherited a family flair for style that’s now the hallmark of her business, Karla Conceptual Event Experiences. The name leaves nothing to be interpreted: Each bespoke event Dascal crafts is indeed an indelible experience for the host and guests, one that surpasses the mere notion of a “party.” This is something Dascal has been called upon to do by not only the elite of Miami, but also by clients in other American cities and all over the world. “I like to say we are a one-stop shop,” she says. “We design everything from the invitations to the trays that hold the flowers. We simply don’t do anything piecemeal.” 100 NE 25th St., Miami, 305.644.3555, karlaevents.com
Number Crunch: $46,442,696
According to charitynavigator.org, the largest independent charity evaluator in the country, that’s the total amount raised by Miami’s National YoungArts Foundation in 2011 (the latest figures available as of press time), more than any other local organization. That sum comprises contributions, gifts, grants, membership dues and fundraising events. For the past 32 years, the National YoungArts Foundation has worked to groom new generations of young artists in all categories of the performing arts—more than 17,000 so far—and has helped support their career paths through scholarships and mentorships with some of the most renowned artists worldwide, including Mikhail Baryshnikov and Martin Scorsese. And, they’re just as good at throwing a fabulous party. Proof? The annual YoungArts gala, Jan. 11, 2014. youngarts.org
RSVP Musts!: Five parties that shouldn’t be missed.
1. Make-A-Wish Ball, Nov. 2 This annual benefit raises funds via a grand auction to fulfill the wishes of children with life-threatening conditions. sfla.wish.org
2. Best Buddies Miami Gala, Nov. 22 Anthony Shriver welcomes more than 800 guests to this benefit for people with developmental difficulties. bestbuddies.org
3. MOCA Mystery Dates, Feb. 1, 2014 MOCA’s roving dinners are scavenger-hunt philanthropy at its best. mocanomi.org
4. Be a Voice Gala, Feb. 15, 2014 Christian Slater and Brittany Lopez host this black-tie affair for the Voices for Children Foundation. voices4.org
5. Galaxy Gala: Experience the Future, March 15, 2014 The 12th edition of this Frost Museum of Science benefit will announce the official opening date for the venue’s new building. miamisci.org
Nicole & Michael Simkins: Married close to 10 years now, high school sweethearts Michael and Nicole Simkins are not new to the world of philanthropy. Michael’s mother became an active fundraiser for the Juvenile Diabetes Institute after her brother died at a young age from complications related to the disease. “Mom got involved with the Diabetes Research Institute at Jackson, and they would have an annual party at our house with several hundred people,” he recalls. “We would go to the ball even as young kids and were always involved. Nicole has embraced it now, too.” Not only has she embraced it, but also, as part of the Young Society of Love and Hope, she is actively helping to support it. “We’re in our third year of doing an annual event called Haute Tea, which we hold every May at The St. Regis Bal Harbour,” she explains. “It’s a lunch and silent auction, and all the women have to wear hats… it’s a lot of fun. Every single dollar goes to the Diabetes Research Institute, and it’s particularly effective because it has brought a lot of younger women into the charity.” Bringing awareness to younger generations is important to the couple, who are parents to daughter Jaden, 7, and son Eli, 4. “We’re hoping that, seeing us give to charities, they will end up getting involved,” says Nicole. “They’re still very young, but we already do beach cleanup with them and talk to them about the importance of giving to your community.” And speaking of giving to community, over the past few years, Michael has played an integral role in reviving the old Miami Beach Jewish Community Center on Pine Tree Drive and 42nd Avenue. “They had planned 15 years ago to build a new facility, but nothing happened,” he says. “Then five years ago, there was a renewed push, and a couple of years back, we decided to make a big contribution,” he says. Now open again, The Galbut Family JCC Simkins Family Campus is a great success. Says Nicole, “There was a big need for it. I’m there all the time with my kids. They have amazing afternoon activities—gymnastics, robotics, acting, sports—and they bus kids in from various elementary schools. The camp just started this summer, and there were more than 500 students. I’ve heard so many people say how lucky they are to have it.” As the capital campaign chair, Michael continues to raise funds for the JCC, while Nicole volunteers. “Miami is such a young community that’s developing so rapidly,” adds Michael. “I just think on the charitable side, we’re underdeveloped. People don’t habitually have charity engrained in them, so I try to encourage it. I love hearing stories of people who give. It’s something that needs to be discussed.”
Lisa Sayfie Ranawat: After six years living in New York, Lisa Sayfie Ranawat is home again and thrilled about it. Having grown up in Miami as one of four sisters in the well-known Sayfie family, she married a native New Yorker seven years ago and, for his sake, decided to give life in the Big Apple a shot. “I had both my children there and was able to do community work while I was there,” says Sayfie Ranawat, who served on the fundraising committee at New York Presbyterian Hospital to raise money for a kids’ pavilion and joined the Junior League. “I wanted to contribute to the community while we were part of it. But my husband is the best man on the planet, and he knew I wanted to be close to my family. He also thought Miami would be a great place for our girls to grow up, so two years ago we moved back.” Rejoining her family means Sayfie Ranawat is working with them on a charity in which they’ve been involved since its inception, The Buoniconti Fund, which raises money for the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. Sayfie Ranawat’s mother, Suzy Sayfie, is executive director; her sister, Stephanie Sayfie Aagaard, is director of major gifts, corporate relations and marketing/events; and Lisa is one of the dinner chairs for the Annual Great Sports Legends Dinner that takes place every fall in Manhattan, one of the organization’s biggest events. “From a very young age, our parents had us volunteer and took us to charity events,” she says. “They taught us to greet people of all genders, ages and cultures, and they made it fun. I have two little ones of my own now, and I’m doing the same with them in the hopes that even though they take their own paths, they will also have those feelings.” Sayfie Ranawat is also on the board at Ransom Everglades High School, which she attended. “I can toot my own horn and say I was a Hall of Famer there,” she laughs. “Everyone jokes because I had such a positive experience and loved my school, but that’s why I’m on the board and can give back in that arena.” In fact, education is one of her priorities, and to that end, she also works to raise money for UM’s Lowe Art Museum with Beaux Arts. But to all her endeavors, Sayfie Ranawat stresses, she gives 100 percent of herself—and enjoys every minute of it. “The motto in our family is, ‘carpe diem,’” she says. “Seize the day, and make life extraordinary; I try to make sure I adhere to that in everything I do.”
Facts & Figures: The “Cost” of Giving
The black-tie season is not for the faint of pocket. Here’s an unscientific breakdown of just what it costs to give back—stylistically speaking, anyway... Average ticket price to A-list gala, $1,000 >>> Fashion for him: Dior Homme cashmere single-button peak lapel tuxedo, $6,800 >>> Fashion for her: Jason Wu printed silk ball gown, $5,740 >>> Shoes for him: Tom Ford Edward patent leather oxfords, $1,370 >>> Shoes for her: Christian Louboutin Highness Glitter platform pumps, $1,057 >>> Grooming for her: makeup, $125, and blowout, $75 at Oribe Salon, Miami Beach. Grooming for him: regular haircut at Salon Vaso, Miami Beach, $70
Grand Total: $16,237
The Go-To Couturier: Style Savvy Designer Silvia Tcherassi opened her first boutique in Coconut Grove in 1999 and, since then, the list of fashionable women who come to her for dresses includes Sofia Vergara and Catherine Zeta-Jones, as well as local society doyennes like Darlene Pérez, Uchi Botero and Solita Mishaan. “The woman looking to wear my designs values individuality,” says Tcherassi. “She’s a trendsetter, not a wallflower.” That’s because the designer is not afraid to work with out-of-the-box materials, like the neoprene she employed to abandon in her spring 2014 collection: “It’s unusual, but spectacular,” she adds. Tcherassi understands the needs of this set because she happens to be part of it. “I’ve supported BeLive, an event to raise money for Colombian charities, since the very first one,” she says. “And I’ve taken part in the Miami Art Museum galas and the Give to Colombia gala in the past.” And, we have a feeling, she looked ravishing while doing so. 4101 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Coral Gables, 305.529.0004, silviatcherassi.com
Giving Abroad: Considering a holiday this season? Five-star volunteerism is the only way to go!
Unparalleled pampering, exalted hospitality and above-par accommodations notwithstanding, Micato Safaris (micato.com) stands out for its philanthropic endeavors and dedication to the greater African community. Micato’s One-for-One Commitment means that for every safari sold, Micato Safaris supports the education fees for an impoverished child who would otherwise not be able to attend school. Through its AmericaShare program, Micato has developed a community center, inclusive of a library; a sports center; and a 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, charity work 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 all in one—we’ve just upped the ante on your next vacation.