Writer: Yerelyn Cortez Hidalgo
Carrie Bradshaw would be proud.....
Spring is in the air and on Tuesday, May 7, 2019 nearly 300 prominent women and men from New York’s fashion, society, entertainment, publishing, philanthropic and lupus communities came together today to raise funds for lupus research. The 8th annual Lupus Handbag Luncheon & Silent Auction held at The Plaza Hotel was the first hosted by the Lupus Research Alliance, formed by the recent merger of the Alliance for Lupus Research, Lupus Research Institute and S.L.E. Lupus Foundation.
The event began with a cocktail hour silent-auction for attendees to peruse thru an array of beautiful luxury handbags. The silent auction showcased approximately 90 handbags donated by top designers to fund lupus research. In addition, attendees were able to bid on exclusive “experiences” which were a first this year! The donations for the luncheon have raised nearly $300,000 which 100% of the proceeds go to support lupus research programs.
Lupus is a chronic, complex autoimmune disease that affects millions of people worldwide. More than 90% of people with lupus are women, mostly young women between the ages of 15 to 44 and especially women of color are at specially at risk. Lupus affects the immune system, which is designed to protect against infection, creates antibodies that attack the body’s own tissues and organs including the kidneys, brain, heart, lungs, blood, skin, and joints. The number of people with lupus in the United States has been estimated to be as many as 1.5 million.
Women of Achievement Saluted:
The 2019 Women of Achievement were: Claudia Cividino, Chief Executive Officer, Bally Americas and Alison Lee, Lupus Warrior, Cancer Survivor and long-time Lupus Advocate and Volunteer. Both honorees have worked with the organization for years in the fight against lupus.
“I knew that accepting the Woman of Achievement award meant that today, May 7, 2019, would become a red-letter day in my life as the moment I shared that I am not an empathetic bystander, but an active participant in this cause as a woman living with lupus myself,” commented Ms. Cividino. “The disease has never defined me but rather, has informed how I lead my life.”
“I also hid my lupus as if it was a shameful secret,” Ms. Lee shared. “I never wanted to be known as ‘the sick girl’. But when I found this organization, I met other young women with lupus and realized I wasn’t alone, and have no reason to hide. The Lupus Research Alliance is a beacon of hope amid the health battles I face.”
Founder of the fashion and retail services consultancy firm Abrams Global, Andrea Abrams chaired the luncheon, enlisting industry colleagues to donate numerous luxury handbags. Honorary luncheon co-chairs include: Matilda Raffa Cuomo, Former First Lady of New York State, Founder and Chair of Mentoring USA; Jessye Norman, international opera legend and long-time voice for lupus worldwide; and Brett Heyman 2015 luncheon honoree and founder of the fashion company Edie Parker.
Many members of the Lupus Research Alliance leadership were actively involved in planning the luncheon including Jennie and Richard DeScherer, Fern Kaye Tessler, Carol Weisman and Teri Wilford Wood. Noted philanthropists and socialites in attendance included Felice Axelrod, Arlyn Gardner and Joan Sarnoff.
Fashion Luminaries Put Lupus Cure in the Bag...
The fashion industry was out in full force with leaders from design, retail and editorial including: Nancy Berger, Publisher, Marie Claire; Carole Hochman, Chief Creative Officer, Carole Hochman Design Group; David Chines, Founder + CEO at COPIOUS ROW; Elizabeth Schweitzer Miller, Director, Merchandise Planning & Allocation at Bloomingdale's; Anna Porcu, Italian jewelry designer; Laura Pomerantz, Vice Chairman And Head Of Strategic Accounts, Cushman & Wakefield; Velvor Rhone, Chief of Staff, Bloomingdale's; Claudia Silver, Executive Fashion Director, Town & Country Magazine; and Craig Tharkur, Chief of Staff, Bally. Lupus Research Alliance volunteer and fashion industry leader Mary Belle was an active participant in the Luncheon Committee.
“A hallmark of the New York spring season, this year’s luncheon is the first hosted by our new organization,” bringing new perspective, new energy and new enthusiasm,” said Co-CEO Margaret G. Dowd. “We welcome this increased support as we unify the lupus community behind one mission – to free the world from lupus through the power of science.”
About the Lupus Research Alliance
The Lupus Research Alliance is the largest private funder of lupus research, united to free the world from lupus by harnessing the power of innovative science to make a difference for people living with the prototypical autoimmune disease. Through the power of collaboration, we are relentlessly focused on seizing every opportunity to transform the lives of all affected – patients, families, loved ones and the entire lupus community.