A strong gathering representing the Big Apple’s most dynamic industries, along with event sponsors Cellar Angels and VeeV, braved the rain to help the Eric De La Cruz Hope For Hearts Foundation pay health insurance premiums for heart transplant patient Colby Salerno
NEW YORK, NY. – June. 15, 2012 – Billed as a “dinner party with a purpose,” Switch, the first annual New York fundraising gala for the Eric De La Cruz Hope For Hearts Foundation was recently held at the Lower East Side’s trendy Grotto Restaurant to raise money to help pay health insurance premiums for 24-year old heart transplant recipient Colby Salerno.
The event was co-hosted by Hope For Hearts founder and NBC/MSNBC anchor Veronica De La Cruz, fellow MSNBC anchor Richard Lui, CBS’s Steve Overmyer, Chanel’s Gregory Schmitt, and New York’s Lisa Singer and Brandon Yankowitz. Broadway star Angel Reed and animal rescue advocate and author Wendy Diamond joined more than 50 other attendees representing the fashion, finance, and media industries. Cellar Angels, a Chicago-based wine buying membership club that has joined in support of the Foundation, generously provided wine for the event, and Veev, a New York-based liqueur company, graciously donated the spirits. The focus of this year’s fundraiser was to collect money for Salerno, a young heart transplant patient from Cheshire, Connecticut who recently received his new heart and is facing daunting insurance premiums.
Salerno was originally diagnosed with a congenital heart defect at the age of 12. To overcome the progressive scarring of his heart tissue, doctors recommended a heart transplant as the only viable treatment. After 166 days of living – and waiting – in the hospital this year, Salerno received his donor heart on May 29th, a major cause for celebration at the fundraiser.
“It’s so fulfilling,” stated De La Cruz, “to not only see one of the patients we have been honored to work with, Colby Salerno, finally receive his second chance at life, but also to see the continued commitment of the local community in donating their time, money, services and audience to pledge more support for the future.”
At the event, De La Cruz shared Colby’s story and detailed her recent trip to Connecticut to visit him. “Colby’s mother, Kelly, told me that Colby wanted to apply to medical school to become a doctor,” De La Cruz remarked. “I told her that Colby must reach for his dreams and apply to ten medical schools if he must. Tonight, you [the guests] have shown that there is a lot of hope for young people out there like Colby.”
More than 50 supporters attended the invite-only fundraiser, at which guests were asked to change seats after each of five courses. Guests picked numbers out of a champagne bucket and switched seats according to that number just before every course was served.
“The idea of table switching simply came from the observation that at most events, attendees either stick to the one or two people they come with, or simply socialize with familiar crowds,” remarked De La Cruz. “The concept of this party came from the simple desire to have people interact more with one another, and be placed in a position where they had no choice but to do just that.”
The dinner raised charitable donations through tickets sales, cash donations, a silent auction, and raffled prizes. Donated items that were auctioned or raffled off included a trip to Thailand, a backstage pass with celebrity photographer Russell James, MSNBC/NBC studio tours guided by on-air anchors, Chanel gift boxes, dinner for four at Fig & Olive, bottles of Veev, wine provided by Cellar Angels, and other items. At the end of the night, organizers announced that nearly $7,000 had been raised and will be applied toward Salerno’s insurance bills for the coming year.
Hope For Hearts’ support base in the New York area is particularly dynamic and involved, composed of an energetic community that has helped raise funds and awareness for organ donation at previous events. Besides the “Switch” dinner party, De La Cruz noted that regular charity events in New York and other regions are high on the Foundation’s agenda of fundraising activities.
Hope For Hearts charity partner and event sponsor Cellar Angels was represented by founder Martin Cody, who poured bottles of 2007 Petroni Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine not typically available in New York. Cody, whose company partnered with Hope For Hearts this year to help raise funds through wine sales, said of the event, “Hope For Hearts is all about community, sharing, and making real human contacts. The fact that heart disease is such a pervasive problem affecting so many makes it a delight for Cellar Angels to join in celebrating the good work that Hope For Hearts is doing in supporting patients like Colby Salerno.”
About the Eric De La Cruz Hope For Hearts Foundation
The Eric De La Cruz Hope For Hearts Foundation is a recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides financial assistance to transplant patients in need and offers awareness and education programs aimed at supporting those facing the challenge of obtaining a heart transplant. The Foundation was formed in 2010 by De La Cruz after the death of her younger brother, Eric, who suffered from severe dilated cardiomyopathy and was denied insurance coverage for a heart transplant due to his pre-existing condition. Eric De La Cruz passed away on July 4, 2009 while awaiting a heart transplant.
About Veronica De La Cruz, Founder
Veronica De La Cruz is an MSNBC anchor and one of the current hosts of NBC’s Early Today Show and MSNBC’s First Look. In addition to her role as an MSNBC anchor, De La Cruz is an active volunteer with groups promoting healthcare reform. Ms. De La Cruz’s full bio is available at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42131556/ns/msnbc_tv-meet_the_faces_of_msnbc/ and two recent MSNBC PSA’s on heart health can be viewed at http://www.hopeforheartsfoundation.org/Cooking.html and http://www.hopeforheartsfoundation.org/Exercise.html.
Those interested in learning more about the heart health and organ donation, as well as how to support the Eric De La Cruz Hope for Hearts Foundation, should visit the organization’s website at http://www.hopeforheartsfoundation.org.