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WSJ: Bringing ‘the Mana’ to the Mainland

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By Marshall Heyman
August 18, 2013
A Fundraiser for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

NORTH HAVEN, N.Y.—In order to raise money for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, last year, Maria Baum, a breast-cancer survivor and the co-owner of the Sag Harbor restaurant Tutto Il Giorno, came up with the idea for the Paddle and Party for Pink. After her diagnosis and during her treatment, Ms. Baum had found solace and peace paddle boarding on the water and wanted to use the ever-growing sport as a fundraising tool.

NY-CN275_NYSCEN_D_20130818185512The event started in the morning with a paddle-board race at Havens Beach in Sag Harbor and reconvened, in the evening, at the home here of Richard and Lisa Perry. It raised over $675,000 in funds that went directly toward the foundation.

This year, the race and the party, which was sold out and took place on Saturday, raised at least twice that. That was partly due to the fact that the surfer Laird Hamilton and his wife, the volleyball player Gabrielle Reece, came on board. Mr. Hamilton was there in the morning to race at Havens Beach, which followed World Paddle Association racing rules.

 

NY-CN277_NYSCEN_G_20130818185718“This morning you could feel what we call ‘the mana’ in Hawaii,” Mr. Hamilton said. “It’s a kind of spiritual energy that brings everyone together.”

Around 100 people participated in the race, including Mr. Perry, Ms. Baum, Edie Falco and Gary Cohn of Goldman Sachs. Ms. Perry opted out. “I’m not a paddle girl,” she said. “I was setting up.”

The mana also felt apparent at the color-filled Perry residence, where, to show their solidarity with the cause, many guests arrived in pink hues. To protect from pesky mosquitoes, pink bug bracelets called NoNoSquitobands were given out to attendees as they walked in. And several one-of-a-kind Laird StandUp brand paddle boards were placed up for silent auction.

NY-CN308_nyscen_DV_20130818190253When event organizers decide to curate a group of designers to make, say, picnic baskets, tote bags or bicycles, the results can be quite mixed. But these paddle boards, gussied up by, among others, Aerin Lauder, Cynthia Rowley, Ms. Perry, Martha Stewart, Nicole Miller and Ross Bleckner, were pretty gorgeous.

“I think people will want to hang them up on their wall,” said Ms. Reece.

“They can be décor,” said Darcy Miller Nussbaum, the editorial director of Martha Stewart Weddings.

Mr. Hamilton was hard-pressed to describe why these paddle boards—which Bob Pearson of Arrow Surfboards conceded were quite challenging to manufacture—came out so stunning.

“It’s like a bird,” said Mr. Hamilton, dressed, like Ms. Reece, in black, with a pink breast-cancer ribbon on his lapel. “Why is a bird beautiful? Because it can fly.”

Ms. Miller said the hardest part of making the board was coming up with an idea for it. “But I made a dress to match,” she said.

Among the other guests on Saturday night were Ms. Lauder; Matt Lauer; Ms. Stewart; Stacy Bash-Polley; interior designer Thom Filicia; Hannah Bronfman; Bippy Siegal, who alone raised $200,000 for the evening; and Eddie and Kinga Lampert. Ms. Lampert was wearing a bright pink dress and said her hedge-funder husband was also planning to wear a pink sweater to show his allegiance.

“But his pink didn’t match with my pink,” said Ms. Lampert, the co-chairman of the BCRF’s governing board.

NY-CN307_nyscen_D_20130818183026Ms. Baum, a derivatives trader who was introduced to paddle boarding by Mr. Perry, said that she did well enough at the race in the morning, but didn’t come in first. “I probably won the category of 45-year-olds who have four kids and have had chemo,” she said, as three of her young children stood by her.

She said that the fundraiser came to her as an idea because “I was done being a patient. But I have a Wall Street background and so many friends who are designers. I wanted to do something positive. This is a pure play for research.”

Ms. Baum added that her goal is to gain momentum for the party year after year. “My dream is that it will become the event of the season and we’ll eventually raise enough funds to find a cure.”

NY-CN282_NYSCEN_DV_20130818185806As she walked to take to the stage and speak to the more than 600 party guests, the sun started to set. The sky became a perfect shade of pink.

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