Blog: 2013 Helen Keller Gala
Each year, one organization gathers at New York City’s famed Christie’s Auction House to honor the individuals that have gone far beyond the call of duty in working toward eradicating blindness and malnutrition. Since 1915, Helen Keller International has worked tirelessly within both the public and private sectors to establish effective programs around the globe geared toward advocacy and education. Children and adults in impoverished countries are losing eye sight at a staggering rate due to factors that are mostly preventable given the right support. The evening would honor former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Kate Ganz (HKI Board of Trustees), and Barry J. Palmer, First Vice President of the International Associations of Lions Clubs.
Before we would enter the grand room of Christie’s, a cocktail reception was held within it’s gallery. This beautifully sprawling space contains a collection of some of the most breathtaking art in the world, outside of a museum. From Norman Rockwell to Guy Wiggins, potential buyers have vast styles to gaze upon. Guests of the cocktail reception meanwhile were welcomed to take in these views while enjoying some delectable hors d’oeuvres like bite sized lobster BLTs and cod served on beds of radicchio. Items like a rare print from Pablo Picasso and the experience of a week long trip to a luxurious Italian villa would be up for auction later in the evening with the proceeds helping to fund Helen Heller International financially and to advance their cause.
Once the cocktail reception had concluded, guests made their way into Christie’s gigantic auction space which would house the evening’s gala. HKI President and CEO Kathy Spahn welcomed everyone in attendance and passionately thanked them for their support. Ms. Spahn spoke candidly about her commitment to the cause and the evening’s honorees, discussing the heartbreak of “River Blindness,” which causes symptoms such as itching, swelling and potentially permanent blindness. She stressed that with the appropriate help, the disease is ultimately preventable and extolled the virtues of pharmaceutical firm Merck for their contributions toward the research of the disease.
The award ceremony was to follow with Spahn taking the remaining portion of the uplifting evening to present awards to three of HKI’s most deserving recipients. Barry J. Palmer, First Vice President of the International Associations of Lions Clubs came all the way from Australia to accept the Helen Keller Visionary Award and Helen Keller International Board of Trustees member Kate Ganz was awarded the Spirit of Helen Keller Award. Both winners made their devotion to the organization extremely clear. The third recipient was a woman who has accomplished so many extraordinary feats in her life, that we were beyond thrilled to witness it in person. Former Secretary of State, New York Senator and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton received the Helen Keller Humanitarian Award. Clinton, an incredible orator, humbly accepted the honor and urged the crowd on hand to be proactive in both sectors to avoid the perils of an avoidable ailment, with dire consequences. Her speech was both inspiring and poignant, and left us in awe of her stature and penchant for delivering an uplifting message.
We urge all of our readers to go to the website of Helen Keller International and see how they can contribute whatever they can give to this immensely important cause. You may live in an area that doesn’t have to think about losing one’s sight on a daily basis, but so many others do.
- Jay Rubin