In the Name of Charity

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New Yorkers love to rally for a cause, especially if an event is attached.

From the $30,000 tables at Cipriani to the $50 tickets for cocktail parties, we are always prime candidates for toasting in the name of philanthropic endeavors. Very frequently night revelers go to these events with fresh business cards, play spot the celebrity, perhaps bid on a silent auction item, and drink to our hearts content knowing that the next morning headache from overflowing bubblies are a mental write-off in the name of charity.

But every so often, an event strikes a chord of deep sincerity, awareness, and inspiration. Last Thursday at The Box, Cocktails for a Cause held a fundraiser for the Somaly Mam Foundation that achieved just that.

Invited by Molly Hallock and Samira Panah of Cocktails for a Cause, the dynamic team collaborated with Somaly Mam’s Executive Director Bill Livermore for the event.  Though the Foundation is advocated by Susan Sarandon and Daryl Hannah, a headline of attending celebrities was not needed to keep this event afloat, as the organizers have a strong and dedicated following. A crowd buzzed around the door as the Chrystie Street venue reached capacity.

Guests enjoyed a few cocktails and a cabaret performance. In jovial spirits under a soft red hue, Samira Panah and Molly Hallock then took the stage for welcoming comments followed by a poignant well-produced documentary. As the velvet curtains raised,  a story struck at the hearts of the full house. Why we were there, the real reason that is, was made clear with a realistic view of what Somaly Mam Foundation aims to accomplish.

Putting aside the business cards and the champagne, we stopped scanning the room for celebrities and allowed ourselves to be captivated by the story of Somaly Mam. Born to a tribal minority family in Cambodia, Somaly was sold into sexual slavery by a man who posed as her grandfather. The film showed the now abandoned walls of a former brothel and Somaly recounted her experiences as a young girl, left with little to no choice but to endure the torture. One evening, after witnessing her best friend’s murder, she was able to escape.

Somaly now spends her days dedicated to fighting the $12 billion per year sex-trafficking industry. Through tireless efforts, Somaly has been universally recognized as a visionary for her work. She continues to live and work among those that are rescued at the recovery centers.

After the film credits rolled, the Foundation’s Executive Director Bill Livermore made closing remarks. A drawing for several prizes was held and we were encouraged to continue drinking, as not only 100% of the $20 cover charge but also 20% of the bar sales benefitted the organization. In partaking in the remaining revelry of the evening, we did so with a clear sense of the organization and a morning recovery that we could feel proud and empowered to support a much needed Foundation.

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