A Special Evening of Food, Cocktails, Music and Honoring the Late Michele Hall Duncan
It was an incredible evening at this week’s enCourage Kids Foundation (EKF) Serving Up Smiles food tasting event at The Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers. It was a night stuffed with delicacies like meatballs by LAVO and Alvin & Friends, wanton lobster by TAO Uptown, steak and crab cakes by Ben & Jack’s Steak House, delicious cheeses by Happy Boards, the most decadent chocolate-covered caramel pretzels, and covered strawberries. with chocolate and even the recently killed cheesecake by Sweets to Crave, and these are just to name a few. I can not forget to mention the high-end bar from Revel, the delicious wines from Jade and the Shinju Japanese Whiskey that at some point, I could not eat or drink anymore. I’ve covered plenty of events but this really hits the mark on so many levels beyond great food, cocktails and music. It was a special night where they paid tribute to their late President & CEO, Michele Hall Duncan who lost their battle last June to metastatic breast cancer. I feel very blessed that I have had the opportunity to know Michele and interview her over the years. It was a bittersweet night to say the least.
I spoke to Joe Wessely, Chair of the EKF Board, and he was very thrilled about the well-attended evening of their premier tasting. “All of us at enCourage Kids are very grateful for the continued support from our donors, sponsors and guests who are committed to our organization’s work. It was the perfect evening to honor Michele and recognize her many years of hard work. I’m very proud to announce the Michele Hall-Duncan Child Life Hero award which will be an annual award recognizing a Child Life professional for their outstanding service and dedication to pediatric patients. The award will include a grant to the receiving establishment to fund pediatric programs as another way to honor Michele’s legacy and will be awarded at the 2023 EnCourage Kids Gala.”
A lovely memorial video was shown for Michele Hall Duncan and Wesley Hall, Michele’s son, delivered a wonderful and significant speech, honoring his mother’s 26 years of hard work with the organization. “This honor is just a small way for me to share my mother’s story and her commitment to the work she does for her family in this program. This show is her favourite because she is a foodie and loves to walk to all the various restaurant stations and eat her heart out. His smile and bigger than life passion to make hospitals a better place to be better, will live on and that I will continue to do my part to keep his legacy alive.
ABC Sports Anchor Ryan Field hosted the program, and he showed how he feels about Michele. “I was introduced to Michele through her publicist MJ Pedone from Indra Public Relations. When MJ shared with me about the work EKF is doing to make hospitals a better place and how much he respected Michele as a leader, I knew I wanted to be involved with the organization and play a role in making a difference.” Chef Ralph Scamardella (Chef & Partner TAO Group Hospitality) who serves as Culinary Chair, shared his feelings. “Michele is probably the most genuine people I have ever met. I’m committed to this organization and helping them continue to bring awareness to their work. Great job by everybody here and hey did you catch me and Joe Wessely on FOX!
I spoke to two former Jets players, Erik Coleman and Tony Richardson, both of whom are committed to charity. “I am so grateful to MJ for introducing me to Michele a few years ago. I will continue to support their work and do what they need to help put a smile on the smiles of hospitalized children,” said Tony Richardson. “I echo Tony’s sentiments and already have a few ideas to bring to the table,” said Erik Coleman. Matt Brust, former NBA forward, attended and it was his first time attending the event and also learned about the organization through MJ. “I’m very happy to be invited to attend this extraordinary event, but more importantly, to find out about its mission. I spoke to Joe Wessely, and other members of the board, and that I love their passion and commitment to uplifting Children. Joe is a winner and now I’m committed to his team.”
Steve Carbone, EKF Board Director, expressed his gratitude to me. “I am so grateful to serve on a board with like-minded and committed people. It was an amazing night, and we are truly blessed from everyone working behind the scenes, our child’s life support and each of our sponsors and donors. I look forward to seeing everyone at the spring gala.” Diane Rode, also a board director, shared with me her feelings for Michele. “Michele is one of my dearest friends and I really miss her. We worked closely at Mount Sinai Kravis Children’s Hospital, and I have so many fond memories of him that I can live with for days. I will always make him proud and continue EKF’s mission.”
A special shout out to all the various restaurants and beverage establishments that contributed to this great evening: Alvin & Friends, Avo Taco, bakeyorey, Ben & Jack’s Steakhouse, Bryant Park Grill, Butter, HappyBoards, LAVO New York, Robert, Sfoglia, Spice Culture -Spices, Sweets to Want, TAO Uptown, B. Stuyvesant Champagne, Hydrogen Water Dr. Perricone, Fever Tree, FIJI Water, Jade Sparkling Wine, JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery, Famous Vineyards, Newburgh Brewing Company, Owl’s Brew, Revel Spirits Inc., Shinju Japanese Whiskey, Whitley Neill Gin and Zyr Vodka.
These great sponsors deserve mention because their donations keep the organization’s programs and services going: ARK RESTAURANTS, BRYANT PARK GRILL, CAPITAL ONE, COUGAR Capital, The Donut Pub, Feil Family Foundation, GFP Real Estate, ROBERT, Signature Bank, Lucy and David Ball , Goldberg Weprin Finkel Goldstein LLP, CUSHMAN & WAKEFIELD, BUCHBINDER & WARREN, and Emerson Entertainment Company.
EKF has several life-changing programs to help make hospitals a better place to be. Their Jay Anderson Children’s Hospital Support Program is their cornerstone program and grants funding to the hospital for a number of programs such as creative arts and music therapy programs and dog amenities for pediatric patients and staff. The EnCourage Kids Bear program provides pediatric patients with lovable teddy bears that provide much needed comfort and serve as a valuable teaching tool to help kids develop coping skills.
This year, the organization received a grant from the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation to create a mental health comfort kit program. Working with input from their panel of healthcare professionals from around the country, they developed 3 different comfort kits containing safe items that can be given to hospitalized kids with mental health needs, particularly those who are under surveillance or supervision. psychiatry. This grant provides 2,500 comfort kits for youngsters served at 4 NYC Health + Hospitals amenities. Other great programs and work from the EnCourage Kids Foundation.
Needless to say, all of us in the room are truly moved and inspired to continue supporting this very special organization. If you’d like to become involved with EKF or donate, please visit www.encourage-kids.org