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Christopher Sugrue Promise Ball JDRF

July 29, 2014

A long time ago (well, not too long ago) I lived in New York City and worked for the New York Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). They call it the New York City Chapter now, but back then it was the New York Chapter. Back in the olden times.

JDRF is a non-profit. Part of their mission was to raise money for diabetes research. They raised the money from donations and from fun events (where people would make donations in order to attend.) And in New York City, this means fancy people and lots of events. Events like the Walk for the Cure, The Golf Classic, the culinary event Spring for a Cure, and The Promise Ball.

You would be surprised at the work that goes into events like this.

I was the Executive Administrative Assistant. This means I was the spare. I helped out on almost every event, in the background. Stuffing envelopes and gift bags, designing auction catalogs, processing donations – I was there to help out where needed. I also assisted the Executive director with board meetings and whatnot, but that isn’t as fun to talk about.

The fanciest event, by far, is The Promise Ball, with between 600 and 700 guests. And, as an employee, I was required to go to The Promise Ball. To work. But if you know me, you know it wasn’t such a great sacrifice.

This is an email message I sent to my friends in November 2004, two weeks after the 32nd Promise Ball:

Here are some pictures from our annual Promise Ball.

Link to David Patrick Columbia’s New York Social Diary’s Picture Pages, 11/29/2004

I was there, wearing my pink and ivory dress, hawking gift table items. For some reason, no pictures of me made it to this Social Page. Whatever.

Not shown here was Wyclef Jean, whom I smiled at, and he back to me.

Promise Ball, November 2004

L. to r.: Christopher Sugrue, Dinner Chairman of the 2004 Promise Ball; Meryl Streep, Presenter of the 2004 Humanitarian Award; Lily Sugrue, Dinner Chairman of the 2004 Promise Ball; Phoebe Cates; Kevin Kline, recipient of JDRF’s 2004 Humanitarian Award; Mary Tyler Moore, JDRF International Chairman; Alan and Ronne Fisher, Dinner Chairmen of the 2004 Promise Ball; Eve Chilton Weinstein and Harvey Weinstein, 2004 Promise Ball Co-Chairmen. Picture credit: New York Social Diary

To the right a picture of the fancy people. And I knew some of them! Even had conversations with some of them! Like I’m a fancy person too.

The Honoree was Kevin Kline. You might recognize the name. He’s like an Oscar Winner. No big deal. He was on our board at the time. [I handed him a name tag once. He took it. That was very nice, because thinking of it now I'm like: I think everyone knew who he was. But at the time I was like: Must. Have. Nametag.]

Mary Tyler Moore, who’s the JDRF International Chairman, was at several of the New York Chapter events. I never met her. I met Phoebe Cates once! Well, talked to her. I think it was near the name tags. And Meryl Streep was at the Promise Ball to support Kevin Kline [there are no nametags at The Promise Ball].

The three women I do know from the picture, Lily, Ronne and Eve were all volunteers at the New York Chapter and were all very lovely. They worked as hard as we did, and looked fancier!

The venue was very important. For many years, The Promise Ball was always held at the Waldorf=Astoria. In 2004, due to scheduling, we held it at The American Museum of Natural History, a beautiful setting for the beautiful people.

At the time, it was a $1,000 a plate dinner. Many courses. One of the perks of working the Promise Ball is that we got to eat the fancy dinner. Well most of us did. The lead event coordinators always seemed to be running around like calm and poised crazy people, making sure everything goes as planned. And fixing the things that didn’t.

Jon Stewart, Meryl Street, Kevin Kline, Mary Tyler Moore, Senator Hilary Clinton

Jon Stewart, Meryl Street, Kevin Kline, Mary Tyler Moore, Senator Hilary Clinton Picture credit: New York Social Diary

But this was not all! Jon Stewart and (then) Senator Hilary Clinton were there! It was a veritable awesomefest of awesomeness!

Again. I did not talk to Jon or Hilary. I was working the gift table. The worst part, for the life of me I can’t remember what exactly I was doing at the gift table. I know we had fabulous gift bags. Everyone who attended would get a high end bag full of cool stuff. We’d get the cool stuff donated by local/national businesses. Some of the items in the gift bag were themed by the industry the honoree is in. For Kevin Kline, we had copies of A Fish Called Wanda. Which pleased me to no end.

In another email missive, my friend Karen asked me if I smiled at Jon Stewart (like I smiled at Wyclef Jean). Here is my reply:

I did not smile at Jon Stewart. (mainly because I am a wimp.) However, one of our volunteers who is giddy over him got her picture taken with him. That made her night. I thought we would have to strap her down or something.

I considered calling across the ball room (while he was on stage, of course) KAREN D_____ OF G____ H_________ LOVES YOU! But I was not sure of how to pronounce H_________ (or even if I was spelling it correctly in my mind) and did not want to make a fool of myself by mispronouncing it.

Next time, Karen, next time.