April 30th: We celebrated the 7th annual charity gala for A Caring Hand, the Billy Esposito Foundation, and what a great celebration it was! Don’t tell us we didn’t invite you, because we did. Held at the Altman Building, the space was great for all of the restaurants that set up tasting stations throughout the large room, and guests could wander around eating and drinking at their leisure while listening to the great live cover band.
The mission of the foundation is to meet bereaved children and families in times of great need to help with with their emotional journey with services such as financial assistance, counseling, and future planning. As the only free-standing bereavement center in New York City, this is an important foundation that helps families in a time of great distress overcome their grief and continue to live life to the fullest.
Susan Esposito-Lombardo, Founder and President of A Caring Hand, told a story of when an 8-year-old boy told her that the center’s motto should be: “Come sad, leave happy.” Near the entrance, they had artwork hanging on the wall by kids of the center, portraits of their emotions and their time at the center, and dedications to their loved ones. According to statistics provided by ACH, up 5% of children will experience the death of a parent before the end of high school, and within Manhattan that would translate to potentially 13,000 bereaved children. With support from donors and volunteers, the center will continue to help bereaved children cope with such terrible loss and hardships.
Notable guests of the gala included: the newly crowned Miss USA 2009, Kristen Dalton, in a beautiful cobalt blue cocktail dress; 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist and World Champion figure skater, Oksana Baiul; Countess LuAnn de Lesseps of Bravo’s Real Housewives of NYC; Teresa Giudice, Dina Manzo, and Cardine Manzo of the Real Housewives of New Jersey; winner of Survivor: Africa, Ethan Zohn; Scott Herman of The Real World: Brooklyn; Ryan Kehoe of MTV’s Road Rules & The Duel; and FUSE host, Jared Cotter.
A silent auction took place to further help the center with incredible items such as a Nina Ricci watch collection, JR Yates men’s jewelry, weekend in New York City hotel stays, vacation and spa packages, art and sculpture pieces, a cook book set, autographed merchandise, restaurant raffles, and much more!
The highlight of the gala for me was the food. There was a great variety of food from all of the different stations set up that left me salivating and rushing around for more. When I first walked in, Bobby Van’s Steakhouse was the first station I came across where they plopped a huge thing of steak onto my plate, topped with a spinach sauce that was delicious. Danal provided mini hot dogs and kishes, stationed next to Vermicelli, Victor’s Cafe, and Macelleria. Planet Thailand served up vegetarian pad thai and an assortment of herbal breads.
For dessert, Ricard Chocolat willingly gave explanations of all their different fillings of their chocolates and truffles. Ivy Bakery from Brooklyn had a make-your-own cupcake station where you chose the base cake (vanilla, chocolate, or red velvet), the icing (vanilla, chocolate, or cream cheese), and toppings of nuts, chocolate chips, oreos, coconut flakes, and sprinkles! My red velvet/cream cheese icing/rainbow sprinkled cupcake was probably the. Best. Ever.
Other food sponsors included A.J. Maxwell’s, Grandaisy Bakery, and Po, and drink sponsors include AOC Fine Wines, Brooklyn Brewery, Bulldog Gin, Tommy Bahama Rum, and One Natural Experience. In addition, there was a great cover band that played hits from Madonna, Fergie, Rihanna, and Lady Gaga, to 60s, 70s, and 80s hits that got everyone dancing on the floor.