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INTERVIEW: Tickled Pink Honorees Cheryl Babinski, Christopher Robbins, And Charlotte Klein Sasso On The Ellen Hermanson Foundation And More

Nicole Barylski

Benefit-goers from last year. (Courtesy Photo)

On Saturday, February 8, the Ellen Hermanson Foundation (EHF) will honor Cheryl Babinski, Honest Restaurant Group Controller, Chair of the Southampton Golf Club's Charity Event for EHF, and breast cancer survivor; Christopher Robbins, Robbins Wolfe Eventeurs Co-owner; and Charlotte Klein Sasso, Stuart's Seafood Market, Ltd. and Sasso Seafoods, Inc. Co-owner; during EHF's Tickled Pink Comedy Night featuring Andrina Wekontash Smith and Jessica Kirson.

We had the pleasure of chatting with each honoree during separate phone interviews about the Foundation, being honored, and more.

What was your reaction when you learned you were a Tickled Pink honoree?

CB: Shock.

When you were diagnosed with breast cancer, did you rely upon the Foundation's services?

CB: Not at the moment, because I didn't know anything about it. But, after I had gotten better and wanted to give back, I met Julie Ratner and all these people that enlightened me as to what was available.

After I got better, because of the people who had been so kind to me. I had people bringing me dinner. I belong to the Golf Club and one of the waitresses at the Golf Club who I was friendly with came over and sat with me and brought me dinners. And I thought wow, I would have never thought of doing that before. It just was kind of a turning point. I said, I want to give back and I want to help out wherever I can. That's when my friend, who is a survivor, had taken me to a couple of the meetings for The Ellen Hermanson Foundation. That's where I met all these people and, found out things that were available and wanted to pass that on to people that I knew after me that were diagnosed.

You chair the Southampton Golf Club's Charity Event for EHF that over the past four years has raised close to $30,000. When will that event take place this year?

CB: It's tentatively set for August 25. I haven't gotten a final approval from the Board of that, but that's the tentative date.

What event-goers can expect?

CB: Right now it's only open to members of the Golf Club program. The majority of them have had people that have been impacted by the disease. They're all willing to help and do what they can to make it successful.

Cheryl Babinski. (Courtesy Photo)

What was your reaction when you learned you were a Tickled Pink honoree?

CR: I was surprised and delighted and touched. Julie, and the whole team at the Ellen Hermanson Foundation are amazing.

As a longtime supporter of many local organizations, why was the Foundation an organization you wanted to champion?

CR: Obviously being part of any local charity is rewarding and has all of the separate meanings, depending on the charity. I have two young daughters, one is 27 and the other is 22, and so I met Julie many years ago, and we became friendly. Just in general, her basic priorities in life and her demeanor and the person that she is, it just made me feel very good about being involved.

Have you ever worked on a Ellen Hermanson Foundation benefit?

CR: Yes, over the years from a catering end I've been involved with multiple events, including their Gala that was in a tent a few years ago. This winter benefit also, I've made donations to it for a number of years. In fact, their 25th anniversary is this summer. They are hosting their 25th anniversary Gala at the Bridgehampton Tennis & Surf Club - where I'm the exclusive caterer.

You work on some of the most highly anticipated Hamptons gatherings. Do you have a favorite? Why?

CR: Well, obviously they're all meaningful and important. I don't know that I would have one that would be a favorite. I would say that the one that is the most challenging, because of the scope and the size and the number of days, we're the official VIP caterer at the Hampton Classic Horse Show. So, that's a whole week of competitive equestrian show jumping. That event in and of its size and scope, we serve thousands of people food and drinks. Just the sheer volume and the sheer excitement of equestrian sports makes it unique.

I wouldn't necessarily qualify any one charity event over another to be a favorite. I would just say that they all have their special opportunities for why they are doing the good work that they're doing and being part of that is always meaningful.

When you're working on something of that magnitude - like the Hampton Classic - when do you start planning for the event?

CR: The day it ends you're sort of thinking about next year because you're always looking to improve and create new opportunities for the patrons that attend an event like that. But, the actual physical work of it usually begins sometime in the spring. Although general conversation really take place all year long and then the real nuts and bolts of putting it all together begins right around the middle of June.

You've been in the industry for such a long time. Do you have a most memorable soiree or client?

CR: Aside from doing a lot of charity events, we're a social caterer and do hundreds of private events a year, so it would be hard to qualify any one private client as more favorite than the other. I'll say this, as the exclusive cater of the Bridgehampton Tennis & Surf Club since 2003, that particular venue is a highlight for us every year because we sell out almost every Saturday with events, mostly weddings, but often other events that are taking place, some of which are charity events like the Ellen Hermanson Foundation in July. So, really the flexibility to do multiple different kinds of events over the course of a season, I would say with the Bridgehampton Tennis & Surf Club is a highlight for us.

What makes Hamptons gatherings stand out?

CR: The diversity of the people that enjoy being in the Hamptons. Every event has its own unique special qualities and challenges and so the people that are behind them are very diverse and that makes each one special.

Christopher Robbins. (Courtesy Photo)

What was your reaction when you learned you were a Tickled Pink honoree?

CKS: I was in total shock and I was thoroughly humbled. Julie Ratner is a true heroine of mine, because of the way that she took a personal tragedy and turned it into something that's so fabulous for the community has always been inspiring to me. Anytime she asked me to pitch in for The Ellen Hermanson Foundation, I say yes. It's always just been one of the local causes that I feel very passionate about and I'm happy to support.

It's just another measure of how committed The Ellen Hermanson Foundation is to the community is that they choose honorees who are "regular people." It's not some Hamptons celebrity. It's those of us who live and work in the community. That's what's so great about The Ellen Hermanson Foundation is that everything that they do is focused on helping women and their families out here on the East End.

Could you speak a bit about the importance of the Foundation to the community?

CKS: Well, first off, it's the first line of defense for women in their breast health. I use The Ellen Hermanson Breast Center at Southampton Hospital for my annual mammograms and my bone density testing, now that I'm over a certain age. It's such a fabulous facility. It's so easy to use. The people are super professional, the equipment is state of the art, and it's fantastic that women have such a first class place to go, and that we don't have to travel to the City.

So then, if, God forbid, you do have an issue with breast cancer, then there's treatment here locally, and it gives women, again, access to first class medical care right here in our community. Living so far away from say a Sloan Kettering would be a great hardship for many women to get to, for their families to get to. So, it's really amazing that the Foundation has been able to bring such care right here to the East End, and that it's accessible to everyone; they don't turn anyone away for lack of insurance.

It's not just the medical care, but there's the whole support system for the patient and her family. All the other activities and emotional support, yoga classes, groups, fashion, accessories. It's just a total system to promote wellness.

For you the cause is very personal, could you speak about who you're dedicated this honor to?

CKS: My mother, Barbara's sister, Eleanor Cantor. Eleanor passed away from breast cancer at age 47. I was pretty young at the time, maybe in my preteens. Cancer at the time, especially feminine cancers, was in the shadows. I remember my older aunt using the "c word." They wouldn't even say the word cancer. There was a stigma about it. It's not like today. I hope we're mature enough and evolved enough to have those open conversations. So, I'm dedicating it to her, and also to a close friend of mine, Kathleen Lee, who died three years ago. She was an Amagansett resident and she fought breast cancer for about six or seven years, had been in remission for a long time, and then ultimately it came back in a metastatic form. She took advantage of many of the services of the Foundation. I think of her, I miss her.

I've had other friends who have had breast cancer, beat it and have had happy healthy lives afterwards. I'm grateful for that.

And, you know, there are men who were getting breast cancer now too. That's another component that you often don't think of and it's something that doctors don't always check for. It's something that everyone should be on top of doing your own checks and staying healthy.

Charlotte Klein Sasso. (Courtesy Photo)

You're very active within the community. Could you speak about some of the organizations you support and why you wanted to champion them?

CKS: As I said, I live here year-round. I really believe that that's what makes a community is everyone helping one another. You're there for the good times, you're there for the rough times. It's one of the joys of owning a small business is that if there's a cause I want to support, there's gift certificate I want to give out, I just do it.

As a fundraiser for the PTA, for Ellen's Run, for The Retreat, for my son's baseball team, it's tough to go around and solicit donations, but it's much easier to ask people who have a stake in this community. And they're always so generous. All of my friends who own small businesses, anything you ask them to do, they're always there.

It's all of us coming together, whether it's volunteering at the homeless shelter, or the soup dinners once a month, I love the activities where you see an instant impact within your community. This Christmas Day, I had my son and my house guests help out at Maureen's Haven Homeless Shelter. It's really rewarding and fulfilling.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

CKS: I'm delighted to be included. It's going to be a fabulous evening. I think it was a great idea to turn it into a comedy night. I think we could all use a laugh these days. It's going to be a really fun party.

In addition to the non-stop laughs, the evening will feature amazing bites and sips, and fabulous live and silent auctions. Tickled Pink Comedy Night will be held at LTV Media Center from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Tickets start at $100.

LTV Media Center is located at 75 Industrial Road in Wainscot. For more information, visit www.ellenhermanson.org.

Nicole is the Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com where she focuses on lifestyle, nightlife, and mixology. She grew up in the Hamptons and currently resides in Water Mill. www.hamptons.com NicoleBarylski NicoleBarylski

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