Report, exclusive interviews and photos by Ibrahim Dabo
New York City, New York—The New York Police and Fire Widows’ & Children’s Benefit Fund held its 25th Annual Benefit Dinner at the New York Hilton on Nov. 4 2010 and honored three influential leaders in their respective fields who have helped make a difference.
Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit, entertainer and entrepreneur Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, and Warner Music Group CEO Lyor Cohen, were all honored in a packed-to-capacity Grand Ballroom.
“I think for anyone who attended this event tonight, you will get the really family sense that we have created, raising money for a very important cause, for the families of those who have died in the line of duty,” New York Police and Fire Widows’ & Children’s Benefit Fund CEO Stephen J. Dannhauser told Ib’s blog in an exclusive interview.
Dannhauser said it is not just about raising the funds but the creation of a meaningful network to make a difference in the lives of others.
“We have created this human network, where as you just saw, this woman just came to me and said, ‘thank you for what you are doing.’ No thanks to me.
“It is in my judgment our obligation as citizens to help people whose lives have been shattered and that’s all we are trying to do,” said Dannhauser, who is also Chairman and President of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP.
Dannhauser also praised this year’s honorees for the good work and contribution they have made toward the cause.
“Vikram Pandit is an extraordinary man. The CEO of Citigroup did a great job,” Dannhauser said.
“[We] are so pleased that he and his organization got behind this, and on top of that we had Jay-z and Lyor Cohen, again from a totally different dimension. I am so pleased that my friends Lyor and Jay-z got involved in this and helped make our organization a success.”
Benefit Fund Chairman Daniel J. “Rusty” Staub, who was one of the founders of the organization, talked about the importance of the event in an exclusive interview with Ib’s Blog.
“It is the 25th year we have been able to have a dinner to benefit the widows and children of policemen and firemen, and port authority and EMS people who have been killed in the line of duty—given up their lives for this community,” Rusty told Ib’s Blog in an exclusive interview.
“It is important. These people make the ultimate sacrifice. They try to make our lives better.
“To say that we owe them a debt, I would say that is an understatement,” said Rusty, who is also a baseball legend.
Rusty said his organization is doing its best to ensure they can assist the widows and children financially.
“But just as important,” said Rusty, “They know that we understand their loss and if we talk to these ladies, it’s great when they get to check for the fact that we never forget what they went through. It means as much to them as anything.”
In his award acceptance speech by telecast, Jay-z said, “I want to thank the New York Police and Fire Widows and Children Benefit for this award… in my honor. I am very humbled by the ‘Answer the Call’ award.
“When I performed in this concert [last year], I just really pretty much did it to celebrate the resiliency and the strength of New Yorkers all over… we are still here and we are stronger than ever. I didn’t do it for this award [but] I’m humbled by it. I appreciate it and thank you so much. New York City forever.”
On Sept. 11 2009, Jay-z helped raise nearly $750,000 through the “Answer the Call” benefit concert when he performed at the Madison Square Garden in New York City.
New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who is a former honoree and board member, acknowledged the work of the New York Police and Fire Widows’ & Children’s Benefit Fund when he spoke to Ib’s Blog in an exclusive interview.
“Twenty-five years of providing funding for widows and orphans of police and fire is a tremendous, tremendous charity and we are indebted to them because they provide things for our widows and orphans that even some departments can’t provide,” Kelly told Ib’s Blog.
“And that’s what is important, that we make sure we take care of our own.”
This year’s Benefit Gala kicked off with a cocktail reception followed by a dinner and live auction, which was led by George Whipple of NY1 News.
Other prominent guests included Hockey Hall of Famer Mark Messier and New York City Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano. This year’s Benefit Gala raised $1.5 million.
The New York Police and Fire Widows’ & Children’s Benefit Fund, since its inception in 1987, has distributed nearly $120 million to families of New York City police and fire personnel who have been killed in the line of duty.
The fund was originally created to assist families of New York City fire fighters and police officers during their loss, but now includes the families of Emergency Medical Services and Port Authority officers.
The annual financial assistance provided by the Benefit Fund has grown from 320 families to approximately 700 families.
For more information, visit The New York Police and Fire Widows’ & Children’s Benefit Fund website.
Click on album below for Gala photos by Ibrahim Dabo.
|New York Police and Fire Widows’ & Children’s Benefit Fund Annual Gala|