Haute Event: ACRIA’s Young Friends Honor New Board Vice President with Intimate Dinner at Mondrian SoHo Penthouse

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Benjamin Bashein, Philippe Kjellgren, Chris Benz, and ACRIA's Stewart Shining

The AIDS Community Research Initiative of America recently hosted an exquisite autumnal feast in the phenomenal penthouse at the Mondrian SoHo. The sit-down, gourmet affair celebrated the appointment of Stewart Shining as vice president of the board of ACRIA. And seeing how intimate and unique philanthropic events are de rigueur in this day and age, place settings hovered around 40.

As the mist and gloom eerily blanketed the city lights of Gotham at cocktail hour, movers and shakers from the art, fashion, design, and media worlds saluted one another—some twenty stories into the night sky. Drinks flowed steadily for a solid hour until a dinner bell summoned the “Young Friends of ACRIA” to their banquet spots.

Stefano Tonchi and Stewart Shining

The cheery new VP, Shining, thanked the fashionable faction for their dedication to ACRIA, before taking his chair next to W magazine editor-in-chief Stefano Tonchi and passing the attention on to Philippe Kjellgren, president and CEO of luxury travel authority, Kiwi Collection. Kjellgren gleefully introduced his company, which sponsored the ACRIA Young Friends toast for Shining, before raffling off a two-night stay at The Little Nell in Aspen (won by an elated Chris Benz).

Bettina Prentice, Tim Goossens, and Casey Freemont

Soon thereafter, gorgeous, plentiful courses appeared on the tables; commencing with scallops and culminating in a plating of rich desserts. Thankfully the sumptuous spread did not deter attendees from wandering about, as most grabbed their goblets at some juncture, eager to engage in discourse. A colorful selection of notables took pleasure in the revelry, including: designers Prabal Gurung, Rogan Gregory, and Scott Lipps; Mazdack Rassi of Milk Studios; publicists Bettina Prentice and Deborah Hughes; editors David Lipke and Kristian Laliberté; artist Sofia Sanchez, curator Tim Goossens, and Art Production Fund’s Casey Fremont Crowe; as well as jewelers Louis Morais and Waris Ahliwalia.

Kiwi Collection's Megan Montenero and Philippe Kjellgren; designer Prabal Gurung; ACRIA's development director Benjamin Bashein and designer Rogan Gregory.

Sometime around 10pm, the good cheer moved downstairs to Mondrian hotspot, Mister H, for more cocktails and socializing. A fresh wave of friends of the organization arrived for the fall fundraiser’s late-night program, where Kiwi Collection held another drawing—this time for a fabulous five-night stay at the Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro (which went to Elin Kling). An added bonus was DJ Jen Brill at the turntables, who whipped up her magical melodies for a hundred or so guests.

Waris Ahluwalia charms artist Sophia Sanchez...

The Young Friends of ACRIA is a dynamic leadership group composed of professionals in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, who are interested in advancing ACRIA’s mission, furthering their own understanding of the newest developments in AIDS research and education, and supporting people living with HIV and those most affected, including women, LGBT people, and communities of color.  The group was launched at an October, 2010 party hosted by Stefano Tonchi and his partner David Maupin at the Lehmann Maupin Gallery.

This specific jamboree could be perceived as just a warm-up: ACRIA will soon host its 16th annual holiday dinner and auction at the Urban Zen Center, in the West Village, on December 7. Tickets start at $1,000 per person.


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