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INTERVIEW: Ellen Hermanson Foundation's Julie Ratner Talks "Starry Night" And Her Hopes For The Future

Sydney A. Braat

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Starry Night Chair Jean Shafiroff and Julie Ratner. (Photo: Patrick McMullan/PatrickMcMullan.com)

The Ellen Hermanson Foundation is pleased to present Starry Night, a Gala honoring Jennifer Finkelstein, 5 Under 40 Foundation, and the doctors, nurses, and medical staff of The Ellen Hermanson Breast Center at Southampton Hospital. Join the Foundation on Saturday, July 23rd from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. for a celebratory evening under the stars! This year, the Ellen Hermanson Foundation is toasting to 21 years of changing and saving lives.

Starry Night is chaired by Jean Shafiroff with Calvin Klein as the Honorary Chair. The event will feature delicious Hamptons fare by Chris Robbins of Robbins Wolfe Eventeurs and fun entertainment by MD Music and Entertainment. Additionally, the evening will include a special performance from singer Meredith O'Connor, who will perform Just the Thing and Guardian Angel.

Guests should expect to mingle with friends, celebrities, and philanthropists, all of whom are celebrating the incredible work of the Foundation. Past chairs and honorees include Christie Brinkley, B. Smith, Dan Gasby, Alex Guarnaschelli, and Anne Burrell.

The Ellen Hermanson Foundation was started by Ellen's sisters, Julie Ratner and Emily Levin. Ratner now serves as the Founder and President of the Foundation, while Levin serves as the Founder and Vice President.

Iron Chef Alexandra Guarnaschelli of Butter and Darby Restaurant served as Celebrity Chef Chair and Anne Burrell served as the Celebrity Chef Host and MC at the 2015 Gala.


"We started in 1996, so this year is our 18th Gala. We started this a year after Ellen passed away," explained Ratner. "She was 42 and her daughter was six-years-old. I started this for two main reasons. One is that I wanted to continue the work Ellen did as a writer and advocate for women with breast cancer. She was really a crusader and talked about the need for educational outreach and early detection and that women need to take care of themselves. She always felt like she was a bit of a teacher. The other motivator for me was her daughter, Leora. I wanted to do something that would keep Ellen's memory alive and so Leora would always know who her mother was."

All the work the Ellen Hermanson Breast Center and Foundation does is entirely free. The Foundation strives to assist anyone, despite their financial situation. "There is a huge need here," said Ratner.

By attending the Starry Night Gala, you're helping the Foundation help hundreds of women and families in the community fight this fatal disease.

"The party is a wonderful, local event," said Ratner. "No event is cheap here, but we try to make our event more accessible to more people. We don't charge for our services. We have, through the money we raised, helped the Southampton Hospital purchase the latest, most up-to-date, most powerful state-of-the art equipment." The organization's efforts have made a huge impact. "Because of that, in 2007, the American College of Radiology designated Southampton Hospital as the Breast Imaging Center of Excellence and not many places get that. Then, in 2011 the Hospital asked us to consider helping them purchase something called a tomosynthesis, which is the most current and up-to-date technology in mammography. It has an early detection and more accurate readings," she added. "It's a very expensive piece of equipment ($500,000) and we were able to help the Hospital purchase this. Then, we were able to help purchase a second machine which is going into the Ellen Hermanson Breast Center at Hampton Bays, which is being opened and dedicated on Tuesday, July 12th. By supporting us, people are really supporting wellness in this community."

The new entrance to the Ellen Hermanson Breast Center at Southampton Hospital. (Photo: J. Heatley)


The Ellen Hermanson Foundation has helped support women and families for over 20 years. When asked what she hopes for the Foundation in another 20 years, Ratner replied, "I hope we will be a relevant organization in the community. Maybe we'll [the Ellen Hermanson Foundation] go out of business—that would be the best thing in the world. If someone could tell me in 20 years that we're not needed, that would be the best news. I would say 'Yes!' I would love to be put out of business. If we're not, I would love to find someone to take over this Foundation and eventually relinquish some responsibility."

Ratner, her family, and all those who work in the Foundation continue to look on the positive side of their work. "When I started this, I didn't know anyone, but now we've all become friends," said Ratner. "I like to think that it's all because Ellen brought us all together. Ellen's favorite quotation was: 'I didn't choose the hand I was dealt, but I guess I get to choose how I play it.' She was amazing."

Tickets to the Starry Night are $400 and $175 for Juniors (30 and under).

For more information about the Ellen Hermanson Foundation, or to purchase tickets to the Starry Night Gala, call 212-840-0916 or visit 2016ehfstarrynight.com.


Sydney Braat is a Hamptons-raised and NYC-living journalist. She enjoys splitting her time between the bustling city life and relaxing atmosphere of the Hamptons. When she's not writing, Sydney is traveling. She thrives off of new experiences, cultures, cuisine, and languages. Sydney writes about the arts, philanthropy, food & wine, and shopping. https://www.sosydneyny.com/ sydneybraat




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