On Saturday June 22,2019 the Hamptons Heart Ball celebrated its 23rd year at the Southampton Arts Center with cocktails beginning at 6 PM. The 500 person sold-out $600 dinner welcomed attendees from all over the country with many Southampton Hotels booked due to the large weekend crowd. The Hamptons appears more populated than ever as restaurants, transportation, and clubs are filled to capacity weekend after weekend. There is a definite electricity in the air as more and more people are seeking to get a taste of the Hamptons and what makes it so unique. I bumped into a group from Chicago who flew in for the weekend to sample the magic of the Hamptons and they were savoring every minute of it. The American Heart Association recognizes the allure of the Hamptons with this annual event paying tribute to the philanthropists and health care professionals who are valiantly battling the scourge of heart disease utilizing all methods possible.
After a significant silent auction and cocktail spread, event Co-chairs Meredith Koslow Cohen and Dr. Jason Chinitz began the dinner by discussing the statistics of heart disease and all those whose lives are effected. In fact, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women with 610,000 people dying of the disease in the United States every year. Some risk factors that can increase the chance of developing the disease include: diabetes, obesity, poor diet, physical inactivity and excessive alcohol intake. Take heed Hamptonites excessive consumption of rose’ may be detrimental to your survival. As the dinner began, there was some more lugubrious news as we heard the heroic story of the Acompora’s who lost their son, Louis, in 2000 when he was hit in the chest with a lacrosse ball and died of blunt impact trauma to the chest. The Acompora’s have worked tirelessly to prevent this from recurring by collaborating with the American Heart Association in passing “Louis’s Law” which requires all New York schools to have an Automated External Defibrillator saving 102 lives since 2002 due to this pivotal legislation. Kudos to the Acompora’s who could have wallowed in misery and self-pity but instead took action to help others avert the tragedy they were forced to endure. While, this dinner is exciting and joyful as it ushers in the lively Hamptons summer season it is also melancholy as each year it highlights the suffering of youngsters with crippling heart injuries. After an appeal was held which raised over $700,000 there was also a live auction where a pizza car and truck was auctioned for 50 guests for the price of $4,500 and a meal for 10 by dinner caterer “Elegant Affairs” was awarded for $4,000.
Baruch Shemtov, host of “Good Day New York”, was the emcee of the evening and introduced philanthropists Toby and Larry Milstein who were the evening’s “Humanitarians with Heart” honorees. This power brother-sister duo have recently exploded onto the Manhattan and Hamptons social scene with a contagious enthusiasm as they lead the young leadership of the Frick, the MOMA, ABT, and UJA. Toby is attending Columbia Business School in the fall and Larry consults for Fortune 100 companies and non-profits across the country. These two fashion stars made it abundantly clear why they are leaders of their age group when they spoke of their commitment to philanthropy and how humbled they were to donate to the New York Presbyterian Hospital Infant Cardiac Unit two years ago with the 17-bed unit being full since day one. Toby described her tearful response when she visited newborns hooked up to heart monitors and tubes until doctors told her many would live long and healthy lives thanks to the Unit. The dinner of salmon, beef and barley might not have been the most heart healthy, however, the phenomenal band “In The Groove” had all attendees working off the calories as they played one energetic song after another mimicking the real artists to such an extraordinary degree that an uber driver asked me if the music was live or recorded.
Distinguished Service Awards were also given to renowned cardiologists Dr. Mark Saporita, whose daughter we learned was serving in the US Navy, and Dr. John Crean who said it was his life’s goal to practice medicine and have a son-he was blessed with four. These men are the real deal as their humble demeanor belied the fact that they have saved hundreds of lives during their distinguished careers as their colleagues whooped uproariously as they took to the stage. The dinner also paid tribute to dynamo Barbara Poliwoda, Regional Director for the American Heart Association for 23 years, who was stepping down after tirelessly working to advance the goals of the organization. Poliwoda, received an enthusiastic standing ovation, with Chair Meredith Cohen joking “don’t go that crazy she wasn’t that great”-but the crowd disagreed as nearly everyone remarked Barbara had achieved stratospheric results with her tenacious work ethic. At 11 PM, attendees were told they would be given free entry to the Southampton Social Club along with a free drink if they presented the red bracelet they were given at the dinner. The Social Club is the hottest spot in the entire Hamptons and this evening there were hundreds of twenty somethings gathered to enjoy the beautiful night. As I whisked my way in, I bumped into a number of dinner attendees who were excitedly recounting the success of the evening-even if the goody bags of prior years were nowhere to be found.