Spirit of Helen Keller Gala

HKI hosted its seventh annual Spirit of Helen Keller Gala on May 21, 2012 at The Pierre Hotel in New York. The event raised over $1,000,000 to benefit HKI's sight- and life-saving programs in 22 countries around the world - our most successful Gala yet!

2012 Honoree:
Spirit of Helen Keller Award
William Foege, M.D., M.P.H.

 Special Guest:
Brian Williams
Anchor, NBC Nightly News 


  • 2012 Gala PhotoGala Co-Chairs (L) D. Brooks Betts and (R) Desmond G. FitzGerald with CEO Kathy Spahn
  • 2012 Gala PhotoSpecial Guest Brian Williams, CEO Kathy Spahn, and Spirit of Helen Keller Award Recipient, Dr. William Foege
  • 2012 Gala PhotoHKI Trustee Wendy Lee, Eileen Simmons, Easton Ragsdale, Mary Libby, George McNeely
  • 2012 Gala PhotoBen Amy, Morgan Grandi, Kat McElroy, Luigi Bonaventura
  • 2012 Gala PhotoHKI Trustee Bradford Perkins and Benefit Committee member Beverly Orthwein
  • 2012 Gala PhotoJunior Committee members with guests
  • 2012 Gala PhotoHKI Trustee Gregory Feller with his wife Dana
  • 2012 Gala PhotoHKI Trustee Henry Barkhorn and Janice Oresman
  • 2012 Gala PhotoJulie Casella-Esposita, Benefit Committee member Gretchen Grant, and HKI Trustee Jennifer Buda
  • 2012 Gala PhotoJunior Committee co-chair Sarah Mason with Benefit Committee member Sheila Lennon
  • 2012 Gala PhotoBecky Thomas, Benefit Committee member Beverly Orthwein, HKI Trustee Robert Thomas, CEO Kathy Spahn
  • 2012 Gala PhotoJunior Committee members Sam Barclay and Hilary Aylesworth with Pau Sabria
  • 2012 Gala PhotoChildSight® staff explain our vision screening program to guests
  • 2012 Gala PhotoHomestead Food Production display
  • 2012 Gala PhotoGala co-chair D. Brooks Betts with HKI Trustee Leslie Dukker Doty
  • 2012 Gala PhotoHKI Trustee Mark Menting with Calvin Mew
  • 2012 Gala PhotoGala co-chairs D. Brooks Betts and Desmond G. FitzGerald welcome guests to the dinner
  • 2012 Gala PhotoBrian Williams tells the crowd the story of how his father, Gordon Williams, met Helen Keller.
  • 2012 Gala PhotoGeralyn Ritter, President of the Merck Company Foundation presents Dr. William Foege with the Spirit of Helen Keller Award
  • 2012 Gala PhotoWilliam Foege, Kathy Spahn and Brian Williams talk during dinner
  • 2012 Gala PhotoGuests Jeanne Gallardo, Meenu Mahajan, Vikas Mahajan
  • 2012 Gala PhotoAuctioneer George McNeely starts the bidding during the live auction
  • 2012 Gala PhotoJazz singer Tony DeSare ends the evening with a musical performance.
Photos ©Ryan McCune/PatrickMcMullan.com

Honoree | William Foege, M.D., M.P.H.
Dr. Foege is a world renowned epidemiologist who is credited with devising the global strategy that led to the eradication of smallpox in the late 1970s. He has also championed many other public health research issues including childhood immunizations and the eradication of Guinea worm, polio and river blindness. Dr. Foege founded the Task Force for Child Survival and Development in 1984, continuing in this role while he became executive director of both The Carter Center and its Global 2000 River Blindness program in 1986. In 1999, he became a senior medical adviser for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Dr. Foege continues to be a leading advocate for many vital health issues, particularly child survival and development and preventive medicine. He is also the recipient of numerous prestigious awards, including awards from the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, Harvard University, Yale University and the Centers for Disease Control, and was chosen as one of “America’s Best Leaders” by U.S. News & World Report.

Special Guest | Brian Williams
Brian Williams, NBC Nightly News Anchor and one of the nation’s foremost television journalists, will share a personal story about his late father, Gordon Williams, who worked with our inspirational founder, Helen Keller, during World War II while serving in the U.S. Army, to help rehabilitate soldiers blinded in battle.

Performance By Tony DeSare
Tony DeSare is jazz singer, pianist and songwriter who performs all over the world in theaters and jazz clubs including New York City’s legendary The Carlyle.

Gala Chairs
D. Brooks Betts
Desmond G. FitzGerald