NEW YORK, NY – April 11, 2012 – More than 300 leaders in New York’s fashion, philanthropic and lupus communities raised nearly $300,000 for the fight against lupus at S.L.E. Lupus Foundation’s fifth annual New York Bag Ladies Luncheon. The support of the fashion industry with donations of over 150 handbags from 50 top designers seems particularly “fitting” since the devastating autoimmune disease primarily affects women. Held every spring, the luncheon celebrates a season brimming with the hope of promise fulfilled.
Honorary co-chairs were Matilda Raffa Cuomo, Former First Lady of New York State, Founder and Chair of Mentoring USA and opera legend Jessye Norman. With her commanding presence and majestic operatic voice, Miss Norman welcomed the crowd. “Like many in this room, I have been involved in this marvelous fundraising luncheon since its inception. I am here each year on behalf of all the magnificent women with lupus who wage an unimaginable battle against this devastating disease affecting not only the bodies of women, but as often, their spirits.”
This year’s noted guest was fashion meteorite Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, who embodies the same pioneering innovative spirit that characterizes the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation. Ms. Wilson went from positions at Bulgari and Louis Vuitton to co-found Gilt Groupe, an innovative e-commerce company offering highly-coveted luxury lifestyle products. She noted, “Three people near and dear to me suffer from lupus so I have seen some of the challenges it poses. Maintaining a positive attitude is not easy when battling such a difficult illness. But as someone entrenched in the fashion industry, I wanted to speak today to help inspire women to ‘Dress for Happiness,’ boosting their spirits and self-image.”
Special recognition was given to Deborah McKeever, President and COO of EHE International for her help in increasing awareness of lupus through its highly visible Rockefeller Center Window Campaign. “EHE International has been very proud to support the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation for the past several years,” said Ms. McKeever. “Our goal is to help groups build awareness of diseases like lupus that are not very well known but warrant public attention.”
New York Turns out for the Lupus Community
Luncheon guests included S.L.E. Lupus Foundation Founder and Vice President Susan Golick and Board members Bonnie Englebardt Lautenberg, wife of Senator Frank Lautenberg; Jennie DeScherer; Betsey Selkowitz; Carol Weisman; and Kate Kelly. Fashion luminaries included Danielle DiFernando, Founder of Danielle Nicole Handbags and Mary Belle, President, Licensing at The Jones Group which includes iconic lifestyle brands such as Anne Klein, Jones New York and Nine West. A first-time attendee of special note was long-time champion for women’s causes, Gloria Steinem.
A silent auction of stunning handbags generated essential funding for the innovative science needed to find a cure for lupus as well as the necessary services to help patients live with the disease day-to-day.
“We thank everyone here today and every designer who generously donated handbags holding so much promise for lupus patients,” said Margaret Dowd, Executive Director, S.L.E. Lupus Foundation. “The funds raised here today turn on the lights of laboratories throughout the country and allow our finest scientists to deliver the breakthrough discoveries that will deliver a Life Without Lupus. So much progress has already been made as we are closing in on the cause and going for the cure.”
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), or lupus, is a chronic, complex and serious autoimmune disease affecting more than 1.5 million Americans. Nine out of 10 people with lupus are women. In lupus, the immune system, which is designed to protect against infection, creates antibodies that attack the body’s own tissues and organs — the kidneys, brain, heart, lungs, blood, skin, and joints. Lupus is difficult to diagnose, difficult to treat, and a leading cause of premature cardiovascular disease, kidney disease and stroke among young women.
About the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation
Formed over 40 years ago, the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation leads the nation in providing direct patient services, education, public awareness, as well as funding for innovative lupus research on the national level. The S.L.E. Lupus Foundation is a member of the Lupus Research Institute National Coalition of patient groups throughout the country.