It really is the most wonderful time of the year! In fact, it’s my favorite time of year, and it’s not just because the holidays are right around the corner. No, my favorite time of year always begins with the UNICEF Snowflake Ball, and I was honored to again serve as Gala Co-Chair this year, along with Gillian Miniter. This year’s 11th Annual UNICEF Snowflake Ball 2015 was a memorable marriage of beauty, talent, humanitarianism and generosity coming to life in one room. Presented by Mariner Investment Group LLC and Norell Parfums New York, and thanks to the generous support of Baccarat, we were able to raise over 3.4 million dollars for UNICEF’s work to put children first. I am so proud to say that since the commencement of the UNICEF Snowflake Ball 11 years ago, the event has raised more than $27 million.
Held again at Cipriani Wall Street, UNICEF Ambassador and event designer, Vern Yip, returned for his 7th year in a row, and transformed the hall into a winter wonderland, where the heart of UNICEF’s global work shined, thanks to the décor sponsor, Scripps Networks Interactive. Vern ensured that the focus of the night remained on the children – the heart of UNICEF’s global work – by including images of children printed on custom chair covers, adorning each guest’s chair. A ceiling installation, made of layered voile panels, was created to recall a winter night’s sky, and modern snowflake centerpieces sat on tables, to tie in the snowflake design on the invitation.
Speaking of snowflakes, the evening began with the annual tradition of the UNICEF Snowflake Lighting, accompanied by a performance by the UNIS Concert Choir. The UNICEF Snowflake, designed by Ingo Maurer and Baccarat, can be found each year, hanging at the intersection of 57th Street and Fifth Avenue as a special symbol, to remind us of the world’s most vulnerable children, and of UNICEF’s commitment to reach a day when zero children die from preventable causes.
Next, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, Edward G. Lloyd, was presented the Helenka Pantaleoni Humanitarian Award, for his passion of making a difference in the lives of children. Edward joined the U.S. Fund for UNICEF in 2001, and has been the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Financial Officer, since 2012. When accepting his award, Edward said, “It is profoundly humbling to receive the Helenka Pantaleoni Humanitarian Award. Helenka Pantaleoni was a great humanitarian, and all of us at the U.S. Fund for UNICEF stand on her shoulders. As gratifying as this honor is, the greatest reward of all has been the gift of coming to work at the U.S. Fund every day for the last 13 years. I feel a tremendous sense of responsibility and purpose. What more can you ask for in a career or in life? Every single day we help kids.”
After Edward’s moving words, guests dined on a delicious custom menu, designed by chefs- and UNICEF Ambassadors, Marcus Samuelsson, Amanda Cohen and Jessica Weiss.
Following dinner, guests bid on once-in-lifetime items in the live auction, hosted by auctioneer, CK Swett. Auction items included a luxury suite at a Janet Jackson concert at Barclays Center, a Milan Fashion Week package for two, and a Z100 Meet-and-Greet with UNICEF Ambassador, Selena Gomez. I want to give a special thanks to our committee and to Scott Mauro Entertainment and Star Group Productions for helping us put together such stellar auction packages.
Following the auction, a woman I have come to truly admire, Mindy Grossman, CEO of HSNi and Vice Chair of the National Boards of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, was awarded the Spirit of Compassion Award for her commitment to children and community service. A member of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF since 2012, Mindy has traveled to Senegal and Guatemala to visit UNICEF programs, and has also launched the HSNi Cares partnership with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF in 2010, which has to date raised more than $2 million to support UNICEF. “I am truly honored and humbled to receive the Spirit of Compassion Award,” said Grossman. “HSNi Cares is committed to supporting children and families in need, locally, nationally and globally. We are so proud to support UNICEF’s work for kids and I am even more proud to serve as Vice-Chairman of the U.S Fund. To work with people who commit their lives to the mission of ‘children first’ has been an honor. It was profound and enlightening to visit Senegal with my daughter and to be able to experience UNICEF’s incredible work first-hand.”
Orlando Bloom was presented with the Audrey Hepburn Humanitarian Award, an award annually given by the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund, for his work, fighting for the rights of children around the world. Bloom has been an avid supporter of UNICEF since 2007, and was appointed a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2009. He has traveled around the world to countries such as Nepal, Jordan, Liberia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia, all with the goal of improving the lives of children. With UNICEF, Orlando has visited schools, met with orphans and children at risk of abuse and neglect, provided vaccines to children, and witnessed UNICEF’s work to deliver clean, safe water for children and families. When presented with the award, Bloom humbly said, “Audrey Hepburn was a truly remarkable woman who inspired so many entertainers to use their influence for good. It is an honor to be receiving her award tonight. As many of you know, approximately 246 million children live in countries or areas affected by armed conflict. I look forward to continuing my work with UNICEF – and doing everything in my power to make sure the stories of these children are not forgotten.”
Lastly, to put a beautiful cap on the night, the newest UNICEF Ambassador, P!nk, took the stage, singing her hit song, “Perfect,” a song which she said often chokes her up, since giving birth to her daughter. She also surprised the crowd by singing the classic favorite, Kris Kristofferson’s “Me & Bobby McGee,” made famous by Janis Joplin.
I would like to thank my co-chair, Gillian Miniter, our wonderful committee, UNICEF Next Gen Co-Chairs Nell Diamond, Jenna Bush Hager and Jaime Jiménez, Project Chair, Pamela Fiori, and After Party Honorary Chair, Riley Keough. With the generosity, efforts, passion, direction, attention to detail, and focus, and funding of these individuals, we helped raise over $3.4 million dollars for UNICEF.
The only thing that matched the pride and gratitude I felt for the generous donations that we raised, was the pride, gratitude and support I felt, with my friends and family around me. I’m so proud to be surrounded by people who do their part to make their own corner of the world a better place, and make my life better by living in it. Between my husband Charlie who supports me in all that I do, our kids, my dear friends Missy Anderson, Jinger Richardson, David and Brooke Burke-Charvet, who were able to fit the event into their busy travel schedules, and other friends who came to support UNICEF from around the country, the love and generosity around me was palpable.
Thank you, and here’s to raising even more next year.