The New York City Mission Society held its annual Champions for Children fundraising Gala at the Mandarin Oriental in Manhattan on Wednesday, April 5, 2017, raising approximately $520,000.
This year’s event honored real estate mogul, investor and philanthropist Don Peebles, and legendary actress and singer Diahann Carroll. The organization also recognized two lifetime members of the Mission Society’s Board of Directors: Dina Merrill Hartley and Lloyd W. Brown II.
Co-chaired by Katrina Peeblesand Jean Shafiroff, the benefit supported the Mission Society’s programs and services that help youth and families, living in New York City’s most underserved communities, break the cycle of poverty and achieve success. Notable attendees included television personality Gayle King, actress Cicely Tyson, former Mayor of New York City David Dinkins, theater producer Arny Granata, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., and designer B Michael.
The evening started with cocktails, followed by a program with dinner, music, and dancing. The Gala was emceed by WABC News Anchor Bill Ritter, a longtime supporter of the Mission Society. Performers included Kathy Sledge, the legendary voice of Sister Sledge; acclaimed singer Alex Donner and his Orchestra, and students enrolled in the Mission Society’s free afterschool music education program, GRIOT.
Event Co-Chairs Katrina Peebles and Jean Shafiroff welcomed the attendees and highlighted some of the accomplishments Mission Society achieved in 2016. Mrs. Peebles congratulated the audience on a record breaking dinner. The sold out event posted attendance nearly 50% larger than last year's.
For her part, in her remarks on behalf of the organization, Mission Society President Elsie McCabe Thompson graciously thanked supporters, referring to everyone as official members of the Mission Society family.
“This was such an unbelievable evening, our most exciting Champions for Children event on record,” said Thompson. “We were privileged to have such distinguished and legendary honorees, all committed to improving the lives of the children, young adults and families whom we serve.”
Diahann Carroll, Jean Shafiroff, Katrina Peebles, Don Peebles, Elsie McCabe Thompson: Mission Society Champions for Children Gala: April 5, 2017
Ted Hartley received recognition on behalf of his wife, Dina Merrill Hartley who was indisposed. Mr. Brown was next, citing his admiration for the consistent hard work the Mission Society has been doing to make a difference in people’s lives. Examples of such came through remarks by adorably spectacled Indiana Torres and Cameron Prince, both accompanied by Derek Steinhiser, and Alyza Tavares, who was accompanied by Mayor Dinkins.
Donahue Peebles III presented a heartwarming introduction of his father, giving those gathered a glimpse of how the elder Peebles sets an example for his children and their friends–what it means and why it is important to have compassion for everyone, especially those on the fringes of despair.
Honoree Don Peebles gave an inspiring speech, beginning with a litany of advantages that many families like his enjoy, to underscore a point. It was a reminder that there are those who have little access to such opportunities. He asked the audience to imagine their kids in the position of so many impoverished New York City children who are served by the Mission Society. He encouraged attendees and their friends and families to continue to support the organization’s incredibly important work of bringing hope, timely and impactful assistance to those trapped in the clutches of poverty.
Peebles also mentioned the three best days of his life, September 12, 1994, the day he married Katrina "the love of my life, my best friend and partner in life"; the day his daughter, Chloe, was born; and “April 5th - not only because I am receiving this award (today) but it's the day Donahue was born in 1994!” He then went on to wish his son a happy 23rd birthday.
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Then it was her turn. She came to the stage a little overwhelmed at the steady stream of fans expressing their adulation during the evening. “Most of these people are too young to even know Dominique Devereaux!” the soon-to-be-82-year-old living legend of film, theater and music industries exclaimed with surprise. The attendees were not having it. An icon makes the roles, not the other way around.
Her flawless appearance and unyielding grace are almost supernatural, an undeniable contrast to most of today’s super-hyped, super-done, hyperbolic entertainers. Slightly burdened by an injured left foot, the ever-glamorous actress came impeccably dressed as usual, save the unmatched footwear: a sneaker on one and a proper dress shoe on another. Always exuding elegance, she requested that photographers not take photos of her shoes. The truth is, given her powerful presence, no one would have had any reason to ever look down anyway, literally and figuratively.
In her acceptance speech, Diahann Carroll recalled growing up in New York City. The legendary actress described her days at the Mission School. She shared how her parents had influenced her in understanding and dealing with the realities of life. Focus and determination are honed skills she and others had to learn. She also credited days spent at the Mission as a sort of haven that kept her faith not only in herself and her abilities but in whatever the future held for her as well.
Surveying the room, Carroll proceeded to reflect on New York City life. She expressed appreciation and delight at the diversity–race, religion, social status, etc.–of attendees, all warmly gathered to support each other in spite, and perhaps in celebration, of their differences.
“We don’t have this in L.A.,” she observed. “They try, but we don’t,” referring to the genuine closeness of Gotham's various communities.
To further illustrate the need to support organizations like Mission Society, Diahann Carroll finished her remarks thrilled not to be asked a question she has always found amusing, if a bit ridiculous: Was it difficult for her at the beginning (of her career). “
"No, the door was wide open... and I walked right in,” she quipped, to thunderous laughter.
The golden star of television, movies and theater summarized how it was like back then. After being picked for a part, it was not unusual to overhear the decision makers say, “Fine. Just use light make up on her.”
Listening in the audience her friend, Cicely Tyson, a legend herself, gently nods her head, pensive. She whispers almost inaudibly, perhaps to herself or to no one in particular, “I remember that.”
About Don Peebles
Recognized as one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the nation, R. Donahue (Don) Peebles is Founder, Chairman, and CEO of The Peebles Corporation, one of the country’s few national privately held real estate investment and development companies with portfolio of projects in New York, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Boston, and Miami Beach. Mr. Peebles also is a top-selling author of The Peebles Principles and The Peebles Path to Real Estate Wealth. He a regular guest on CNN, CNBC, and FOX, as well as a highly sought-after speaker.
Mr. Peebles is an avid supporter of mentoring to expose youth to the value of entrepreneurship. He serves as Chairman of the Board of the Congressional Black Caucus, is on the Board of Directors of the YMCA of Greater New York, is a member of Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Giménez’s Business Roundtable, was a two-time former member of President Barack Obama’s National Finance Committee, and former Chairman of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau.
About Diahann Carroll
The Mission Society presented the legendary Diahann Carroll with its Champions for Children Award. Born in Harlem, Ms. Carroll is an award-winning and trailblazing actress, successful entrepreneur, and devoted humanitarian. One of America’s major performing talents, she has starred on stage, screen, and television. In addition to winning Tony and Golden Globe awards, Ms. Carroll has been nominated for Emmys, Grammys, and an Oscar over her long and prestigious career. She also has devoted considerable time to support causes that are important to her. She served as an ambassador and national spokesperson for Lifetime Television’s breast cancer awareness campaign, and has been recognized for raising awareness about HIV and AIDS.
About the New York City Mission Society
The New York City Mission Society has been on the frontlines of the war on poverty for more than 200 years. Today, its progressive portfolio of educational, workforce development, cultural enrichment, and community-building programs make a positive, long-term impact on the City’s most underserved communities by promoting academic achievement, and providing career opportunities and cultural enrichment. Each year, Mission Society serves more than 12,000 children and families throughout New York City with programs, supportive services, and community events.