New York—April 28, 2014
Women of Achievement Honorees
The 2014 Women of Achievement honored were: Desiree Gruber, President and CEO, Full Picture, Co-Creator & Executive Producer, Project Runway and Co-Founder, Theodora & Callum; Lisa R. Sammaritano, MD, Associate Attending Physician, Hospital for Special Surgery and Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine, Weill Cornell Medical College; and Michelle Gadsden-Williams, Managing Director and Global Head, Diversity & Inclusion, Credit Suisse. The three honorees were recognized for their outstanding professional accomplishments in their respective fields as well as their help in advancing the fight against lupus.
"I feel it's my responsibility to help gain awareness for a disease that particularly targets women," said Ms. Gruber. "The Bag Ladies Luncheon is the perfect opportunity for the fashion industry to support the very women they serve on a daily basis."
"The S.L.E. Lupus Foundation and the Lupus Research Institute have played an important role in the continued focus on lupus research at Hospital for Special Surgery," said Dr. Sammaritano. "In addition, we care for many shared patients, providing both medical and social support so no one has to face lupus alone."
Ms. Gadsden-Williams noted, "I joined the Board of the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation because, as a lupus patient myself, I strongly believe in the organization's vital mission – supporting science and service. I strive to empower myself and others to overcome the challenges of living with this difficult disease."
There to honor Ms. Gadsden-Williams was Cissy Houston, gospel singer and mother of the late pop superstar Whitney Houston. Attending to celebrate another Woman of Achievement was Ms. Gruber's actor husband Kyle MacLachlan, well-known for his roles on the TV shows Sex and the City, Desperate Housewives, Portlandia, Believe and How I Met Your Mother.
Honorary co-chairs were Matilda Raffa Cuomo, Former First Lady of New York State, Founder and Chair of Mentoring USA and opera legend Jessye Norman. Miss Norman commented, "As an artist, I have always refused to believe in limits. Today we are raising the funding for research that will allow young women with lupus to go beyond the limits of this disease to pursue their dreams."
Melany Hearne Martins, Founder and Chief Investment Officer at Exantas Capital LLC, chaired the Bag Ladies Luncheon this year. The Foundation's Board was well represented by founder Susan Golick and members Bonnie Englebardt Lautenberg; Jennie DeScherer; Fern Kay Tessler; Betsey Selkowitz; Carol Weisman; and Kate Kelly. The Foundation's growing Young Leadership Group were among the guests and volunteers, helping make this annual fundraiser a major success.
Several fashion luminaries attended including Anne Keating, Senior Vice President of Public Relations, Special Events & Corporate Philanthropy at Bloomingdale's, Inc.; Danielle DiFernando, Founder of Danielle Nicole Handbags; and Foundation board member Mary Belle, President, Licensing at The Jones Group which encompasses iconic lifestyle brands such as Anne Klein, Jones New York and Nine West. Noted philanthropists and socialites included Phyllis Mack and Lady Va Maughan.
Bags Brimming with Promise
The silent auction featured 125 stunning handbags donated by top designers and celebrities to fund the best of science and service for people with lupus. Those who could not attend and would like to support the lupus cause can bid on an additional selection of handbags online at Charitybuzz. The Charitybuzz online auction will run through May 8, 2014.
"We thank everyone who helped make this event an unprecedented success," said Margaret Dowd, Executive Director, S.L.E. Lupus Foundation. "While the annual Bag Ladies Luncheon is great fun, the reason we're here is quite serious – to raise the necessary funds to advance the most novel and innovative research. Our Foundation helps people live with lupus day-to-day, but the best way we can help long-term is to deliver better, safer treatments as we pursue a cure."
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), or lupus, is a chronic, complex and serious autoimmune disease affecting more than 1.5 million Americans. Nine out of 10 people with lupus are women. In lupus, the immune system, which is designed to protect against infection, creates antibodies that attack the body's own tissues and organs - the kidneys, brain, heart, lungs, blood, skin, and joints. Lupus is difficult to diagnose, difficult to treat, and a leading cause of premature cardiovascular disease, kidney disease and stroke among young women.
About the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation
Formed over 40 years ago, the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation leads the nation in providing direct patient support, education, public awareness, as well as funding for innovative lupus research on the national level. The S.L.E. Lupus Foundation is a member of the Lupus Research Institute National Coalition of patient groups throughout the country. Visit LupusNY.org for more information.