Nearly 300 leaders in the New York fashion, entertainment and entertainment world gathered at the Plaza Hotel on April 4 for the 8th Annual Lupus Handbag Luncheon & Silent Auction. The event — the first hosted by the newly formed Lupus Research Alliance — raised an unspecified amount of money for lupus research.
The luncheon was chaired by Andrea Abrams, founder of Abrams Global, and featured a silent auction of close to 90 handbags, all donated by premier designers and celebrities. The event’s three honorary luncheon co-chairs were opera legend Jessye Norman; handbag designer and 2015 luncheon honoree Brett Heyman; and Matilda Raffa Cuomo, former first lady of New York state and founder of Mentoring USA.
This year’s “2017 Women of Achievement” were Bally Americas CEO Claudia Cividino and lupus advocate Alison Lee. Both have previously worked with three predecessor organizations — the Alliance for Lupus Research, the Lupus Research Institute and the SLE Lupus Foundation — which merged last year to form the LRA. The New York-based nonprofit group aims to find better treatments and ultimately prevent and cure systemic lupus erythematosus by supporting medical research.
“I knew that accepting the Woman of Achievement award meant that today, April 4, 2017, would become a red-letter day in my life as the moment I shared that I am not an empathetic bystander, but an active participant in this cause as a woman living with lupus. The disease has never defined me, but rather has informed how I lead my life,” Cividino said, according to a news release.
“I also hid my lupus as if it was a shameful secret,” said Lee. “I never wanted to be known as ‘the sick girl’. But when I found this organization, I met other young women with lupus and realized I wasn’t alone, and have no reason to hide. The Lupus Research Alliance is a beacon of hope amid the health battles I face.”
Jennie and Richard DeScherer, Fern Kaye Tessler, Carol Weisman and Teri Wilford Wood all helped plan the luncheon. Felice Axelrod, Arlyn Gardner and Joan Sarnoff attended, as did these prominent fashion executives: Nancy Berger (Marie Claire), Carole Hochman (Carole Hochman Design Group), David Chines (Copious Row), Elizabeth Schweitzer Miller and Velvor Rhone (Bloomingdale’s), Anna Porcu (Italian jewelry designer), Laura Pomerantz (Cushman & Wakefield), Claudia Silver (Town & Country magazine) and Craig Tharkur (Bally). LRA volunteer and fashion industry leader Mary Belle also participated in the luncheon committee.