This post was written by Peggy O’Neill, Vice President of Development, Individual Giving.
Herbs from Provence, a Hollywood legend, and vitamin A. What do they have in common? All took center stage on Tuesday, May 24th at Helen Keller International’s sixth annual Spirit of Helen Keller Gala.
Over 300 guests filled the Grand Ballroom at the Pierre Hotel on Tuesday, May 24th to support HKI’s programs to prevent blindness and reduce malnutrition and celebrate our honorees, Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation (PFS) and Reinold Geiger, CEO of L’OCCITANE en Provence. Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we raised a remarkable $825,000 for HKI’s sight-and life-saving programs! And donations are still coming in!
The legendary Meryl Streep served as our Master of Ceremonies and special guest. Her sharp wit, warm personality, and dedication to the health and well-being of women and girls all around the world set the tone for a fun and festive evening (you can get a taste with this video of Meryl introducing Reinold Geiger, CEO of L’OCCITANE en Provence).
Other highlights of the evening included:
- Susan Olivo, Executive Director of Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation, reminiscing about Meryl Streep’s cartwheel prowess before accepting The Helen Keller Legacy Award.
- Reinold Geiger, CEO of L’OCCITANE, yodeling after receiving The Helen Keller Visionary Award. L’OCCITANE also brought a bit of France to Manhattan by donating centerpieces with herbs from Provence as well as the gift bags, which included L’OCCITANE Lavender Hand Cream, lavender seeds, and a copy of Helen Keller’s autobiography, The Story of My Life. For a limited time, you can purchase the contents of the gift bag in New York City L’OCCITANE boutiques and on their website, and 100% of the proceeds will directly benefit HKI!
- The live auction, which was led by Christie’s auctioneer George McNeely, raised $94,500. (How I wish I were the lucky winning bidder who will be travelling in style to France to enjoy the luxurious L’OCCITANE hotel and spa, Le Couvent Des Minimes in Provence!
- And our “Fund a Need” program raised an additional $156,000 for direct support of HKI’s programs, including two very generous leadership matches from Readers Digest Partners for Sight Foundation ($50K) and HKI Board Member, Desmond FitzGerald ($25K).
- A short video highlighting our work with vitamin A supplementation work in Tanzania.
It truly was a fantastic evening, which wouldn’t have been possible without the tireless efforts of Gala Co-Chairs Kate Ganz and Desmond FitzGerald, all the members of the Board of Trustees, the Benefit and Junior Committees, and all of our very generous sponsors including our platinum sponsor, Standard Chartered Bank. I am so grateful to all who participated so generously and ensured the success of the evening and am looking forward to seeing everyone back again next year to support the seventh annual Spirit of Helen Keller Gala!