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Governor Attends Best Buddies Gala In Support Of Volunteerism

Originally Posted: August 23, 2009

Douglas MacKaye Harrington

Governor David Paterson attended the Best Buddies Hampton Gala. In the background a painting of JFK by Jamie Wyeth, one of the many silent auction items. Photos by Douglas Harrington

Water Mill - The Best Buddies Hamptons Gala, one of the most poignant East End charitable events, was held on Friday, Aug. 21 at the beautiful home of Anne Hearst and Jay McInerney. The environment, animal rescue, and the arts are all causes worth our attention and assets, but to positively impact the life of another human being is pure altruism in its most elemental and profound form.

Co-hosts Jay McInerney and Anne Hearst with guest.

By its own definition, "Best Buddies is a non-profit organization dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employment and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities." Continuing the Kennedy legacy of public service in general and the seminal work of his late mother Eunice specifically, Best Buddies in its simplest definition is a Big Brothers/Big Sisters program for people with intellectual disabilities founded by Anthony Kennedy Shriver in 1989.

Since its founding, Best Buddies has grown to more than 1,400 chapters on college, high school and middle school campuses around the country and is represented in all 50 states and on six continents. It is estimated that almost 500,000 intellectually disabled individuals will be positively impacted by the organization in the upcoming year through its six specific programs that facilitate friendships, fosters understanding and creates jobs for the intellectually disabled.

Co-hosts Jason and Haley Binn.

Also hosted by Haley and Jason Binn and Tatiana and Campion Platt, this is only the second year for the Best Buddies event in the Hamptons and both times it has taken place at the Hearst-McInerney home. This year's theme was country western and many guests dressed the part, including the gracious hosts. McInerney expressed his pleasure with the turnout, "We are still feeling our way, but we have 220 plus people here tonight and we have kept the costs way down. It is only our second year and we are not as established as some of the other great charities out here like Southampton Hospital or the Parrish Art Museum, but we are exceeding our expectations."

McInerney further commented on the continued altruism of the Hamptons community in a rough economy, "A lot of money is raised out here and it should be because there is a lot of collective wealth here, more than anywhere else in the country, particularly at this time of the year. I think responsibility comes with that and fortunately people in the Hamptons always seem to come through. In this economy you have to pick and choose and I am glad we got as many people as we have."

Jimmy Nederlander and Countess LuAnn de Lesseps play a little blackjack for a good cause.

This year's event was made more poignant by last week's passing of Kennedy's mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who was the inspiration for her son's work. Her own legacy of altruism has touched the lives of millions of intellectually disabled people the world over with her creation of and lifetime support for the Special Olympics. Niche Media CEO and Founder Binn, a long-time friend of the Kennedy and Shriver families and a corporate supporter of Best Buddies, commented, "As you know he is the youngest of the bunch and his mother meant a lot to him. She was indeed his inspiration. Tony has created a major international network that travels all around the country and targets not only major cities, but smaller communities like the Hamptons. We [Niche Media] are in a lot of those markets and talk to a lot of the same people, it is a very successful charity and very respected. It is where his heart and soul is, and Tony pretty much spends all his time on it."

Christine Scholz of Sheer Style, Trey Radel of CBS and Amy Wegmann of FOX at the Best Buddies Hamptons Gala.

Binn went on to elaborate upon the need for corporations to step up and find ways to help charities like Best Buddies, "It is about finding ways to engage charities as a corporation and as a responsible media company like ourselves, to appreciate who your partners are and understand that every dollar you can put into your philanthropic efforts means a lot." Binn's company not only supports Best Buddies philanthropically, but has many Best Buddies employees, which is one of the major missions of Shriver's charity.

One of the evening's very special guests was Governor David Paterson who commented on the importance of charitable events as the state struggles with its own budget problems during the continuing recession, "Events like these are so important, as the not-for-profits and charities are obviously hurt by the recession and can't do as much. Believe it or not, there are so many events that are better attended this year than they were last year. It is an incredible victory for the organizers and the generous people who come out here. I can't thank them enough, because it makes our job just a little bit easier."

I commented to the Governor on how often he seems to make the time to attend grassroots charitable events like Best Buddies and how grateful the attendees always are to see him, "Thank you. I come out here and I keep saying I am going to take a couple of days off, but when people are doing things like this, I know the difference it makes at this time in my life for me [as Governor] to show up and encourage them. I find I am still able to do it, I know sometime down the road I'll have the time to get some rest."

Country Western was the theme in the cocktail reception tent.

Along with a silent auction, the attendees had the opportunity to participate in some charitable gambling. Sitting at one of the event's western saloon styled blackjack tables with Countess LuAnn de Lesseps of "The Real Housewives of New York" was legendary Broadway producer Jimmy Nederlander who commented, "This is a wonderful event that I hope it will continue to be an annual event. It is a great cause that helps a lot of people. My wife's family has been involved with the Special Olympics for many, many moons and we have been supporting Best Buddies for many moons. It is near and dear to our heart." Countess de Lesseps agreed, "I think it a great cause that gives people a second chance in life, it helps people integrate into society and be part of the bigger picture."

In the company of her sister Amy Wegmann and her boyfriend Trey Radel, both news anchors from competing FOX and CBS Florida affiliates, was Christine Scholz of Sheer Style Apparel Services, another corporate sponsor of Best Buddies. Scholz commented on Shriver's infectious passion for his cause, "Tony is electrifying, once you get the bug you can't help but participate and get involved." Sholtz also participates on a personal level and has her own best buddy in Seattle named Eric Matez.

In June supporters raised money for the foundation by participating in a 100 mile bike ride from Boston to Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. One such participant and volunteer was Chuck Thomas of Armani, "It is an amazing cause and an amazing charity. It was an incredible event and riding with these intellectually disabled individuals was so inspiring. They have so much to contribute, so much to add to the community." A west coast bike event is planned for September along the Pacific Coast Highway concluding at Hearst Castle and hosted by California First Lady Maria Shriver.

Recently, Anthony Kennedy Shriver stated, "When people ask me what my vision for Best Buddies is, my answer is to put Best Buddies out of business, which seems to surprise them. Imagine a world in which people with intellectual disabilities are so successfully integrated into our society that they no longer need organizations like Best Buddies. I can't think of anything better."

Although Shriver himself could not attend the benefit because his plane was grounded in Hyannis due to foul weather, his and his mother's spirit and passion resonated throughout the event. The Best Buddies Gala reflects the best of the Hamptons - the gifts of those that have, given generously in support of those that need, until the day comes when no more galas are needed at all.

Frequently mistaken for the "Most Interesting Man in the World" from the Dos Equis commercials and the iconic gray-bearded Sean Connery, DMH is the Senior Contributing Editor at Hamptons.com. www.hamptons.com Hamptons HamptonsOnline HamptonsOnline

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