- Philanthropists, models, fashionistas and socialites joined MacDella Cooper
when she hosted the inaugural Champions of Education Benefit in Southampton on Saturday, July 29. Guests were treated to a cocktail reception, VIP Dinner, runway fashion show and silent auction. The focus of the MacDella Cooper
Foundation, now in its fifth year, is to provide education and opportunities for Liberian children.
The Benefit aimed to raise $500,000 for the MacDella Cooper Academy, the first ever tuition-free academy in post-war Liberia dedicated to educating abandoned children and orphans.
Cooper has been featured in Glamour
magazine as a model and has worked behind the scenes at Ralph Lauren
as a designer, but the statuesque beauty's real passion is to help the abandoned children of her native country, Liberia, a topic that strikes a chord with the fashionista.
"I was an orphan and an abandoned child during the 1990 war in Liberia," said Cooper. "My father was killed. He was taken away from the house one day. We [Cooper and her two teen-aged brothers] had no idea when he was coming back or who took him. I was 13 at the time. We sat there and waited and waited for my father but he never came home. My mother was out of the country and couldn't get back in because of all the turmoil. So we ended up walking for six months out of Liberia and ended up in a refugee camp in a bordering country. I was lucky enough to get to the United States and get an education, but a lot of children were not so lucky so I got a bunch of my friends together and started this foundation."
From left Cali Carlin and Host Brian Custer welcome guests to VIP dinner.
The host committee includes a wide range of celebrities, business owners, philanthropists and notables including Matt Dillon
, Countess LuAnn de Lesseps
and Mario Singer
, Simon van Kempen
, Richard Bo Dietl
(Dietel & Associates, former NYPD detective) and Alex McCord
("Real Housewives of New York City
"), Surface Magazine
publisher Richard Klein
, Gov. David A. Paterson
, Michelle Tractenberg
, Paul Allen
, co-founder of Microsoft, Quintin Primo
, CEO of Capri Capital
Partners and Barry Segal
of the Segal Family Foundation, Ian Gerard
, Brandon Short
linebacker), Lisa Soloway
(20/20 producer), Kerry Cassidy
, Ian Gerard
and Trevor Freeland
(Deutsche Bank director).
"I've been very aware of the civil war that has been raging in Liberia for many years and I wanted to do something to help," said host committee member Ian Gerard, "And with the building of the school there for orphans, I thought it was a very good cause, and that's why I got involved. I want to help."
The core projects of the Macdella Cooper Foundation are education sponsorship that matches Americans with Liberian children to help provide aid for education and meal costs, product donations that offer basic care supplies to Liberian orphans, and the MCF Academy.
Four Seasons chef Jeremy Palmer holding a plate of roasted skewered vegetables.
The MCF Academy, designed by world-renowned architect Winka Dubbeldaum
is slated to open in the fall of 2010. It will be the first school in post-war Liberia to offer free education, including room and board to 200 orphans and abandoned children.
Sister Mary Leonora Tucker
will be administrator of the MCF Academy. Prior to the outbreak of the civil war in Liberia, Tucker worked as a teacher trainer and as coordinator of all the Catholic schools in the Diocese of Cape Palmas. Michelle Quinn
will also lend a hand as the MCF Academy Assistant Administrator her background includes teaching English and French in Puerto Rico.
The event kicked off in high fashion at 4 p.m. at the Mercedes-Benz
" Polo Challenge in Bridgehampton where octo-dad and reality TV star Jon Gosselin
and Michael Lohan
(Yes, Lindsay's dad) were the talk of the horsey set.
The Polo Match was followed by a cocktail reception at the Four Seasons Caterers
in Southampton where guests sipped Cooper Collins (chartreuse, lemon juice, simple syrup and club soda) and Passion Pineapples (yellow chartreuse, pineapple juice, fresh lime and club soda) while grooving to the tunes of DJ Dusko Justic
After cocktails a VIP dinner of seared tuna in a watermelon and soy lemongrass marinade, filet mignon with crimini mushrooms and rosemary demiglace and baby sunburst squash was served along with a variety of chocolate and red velvet cupcakes for dessert.
"I'm really happy to work with this organization," said Four Seasons
executive chef Jeremy Palmer. "I'm looking forward to working with them again and helping them raise money for their fund."
Macdella Cooper Foundation VIP dinner drew a large crowd.
IMG Fashion, Vaughn Jereaux, Roberta Chiarella, Sleek Surgical &MedSpa, Mathe Roux Skin Care, Adam Lippes, SK Wilbur, Completely Bare Spa and Braccialini were the evenings silent auction and raffle sponsors offering up such goodies as Dinner for four at The Four Seasons, A custom designed three-speed bike, a Bradford Custom portrait, two tickets for the "Gossip Girl
" Sites Tour, an autographed football from Dallas Cowboy Ed Jones
and an autographed book and two-hour design consultation with Libby Langdon
, apparently, were also happy to work with the organization.
The evening capped off with a fashion show featuring La Lesso's Spring/Summer 2009 resort collection, jewelry by Lucid New York and Ramona Singer
and shoes from Tia Cibani.
After the evening's festivities the crowd headed over to AXE/DUNE, Southampton's ultra-small but uber
-trendy night spot for the official after party.
"I go to Liberia as often as possible. I still have long distance relatives there. My passion and heart belongs to the children," said Cooper. "The United States is the land of opportunity - it gave me a second chance. My advice to any young girl from Liberia, or any country, is to go to school and get an education. It will open up a world of opportunities."