Casita Maria Center for Arts & Education held their annual gala, Fiesta, at The Plaza Hotel on October 15, 2019. Socialites and philanthropists swarmed the Ballroom of the iconic hotel – most dressed in sultry red, the obvious trend of the evening. This year’s Fiesta honored Ambassador Mary Dawkins and Brigadier General Peter Dawkins, John Hardy Jewelry, Edgar Legaspi, and Juan Montoya with the Casita Maria Gold Medals of Honor. The award is bestowed to individuals in recognition of their contribution to the worlds of arts, education and philanthropy. Actress Sissi Fleitas hosted and speeches were kept to a minimum to allow for maximum time on the dance floor.
“Welcome! I am here to be brief and grateful,” said Chair Jackie Weld Drake. Afterwards she privately shared “years ago when we honored the divine Audrey Hepburn her speech was perfect; just twos sentences, ‘CHILDREN are greatest asset. Thank you so much for this award’. Brilliant no? Frankly I resisted quoting my irrepressible pal Daisy Soros tonight. She likes to say, ‘Like Anthony said to Cleopatra, I’m not here to talk.” Jackie’s example of brevity is something many gala-goers wish the charities would emulate.
“It’s really a blessing and an honor to serve as executive director of the first and oldest Latino charity in all of New York City,” said Casita Maria Executive Director Haydee Morales.
“The Casita Maria enterprise is a remarkable one that for decades has done such wonderful things for this community,” said Pete Dawkins upon receiving his Gold Medal. “I would just like to add my congratulations to the other recipients of this wonderful award,” added Mary Dawkins. “To see such kindness and thoughtfulness at Casita really touched my heart,” said Juan Montoya. “Community and support are the most important things we can nurture. You all are an inspiration.”
Edgar Legaspi, on stage with his family, said, “We believe we have a mission to help people through education. I would like to encourage people to help Casita. It’s not about money, it’s about effort and time.” John Hardy Jewelry’s CEO Kareem Gahed, said, “Thank you from all of the generations of artisans, wax carvers, chain weavers, inspired employees, and passionate leaders at John Hardy.”
Model Adwoa Aboah attended with Gahed. She is the latest face of John Hardy, joining Pénelope Cruz and Julianne Moore. Aboah was adorned with John Hardy’s jewelry down her open back Vivienne Westwood dress.
The Dinner Chairmen were Jacqueline Weld Drake, HRH Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia, Urban Karlsson, Mary Snow, and Joan Steinberg. Honorary Chairmen were Dayssi Olarte de Kanavos, Elizabeth Peabody, and Carlos Souza. Past honorees have included Santiago Calatrava, Roberto Cavalli, Agnes Gund, Audrey Hepburn, Carolina Herrera, Daisy Soros, and Lynn Wyatt. Pachanga co-chairs were Victor Roquette and Sabrina Wirth.
Among the guests were Adwoa Aboah, Liza and Sergio Alvarez, Peter Bacanovic, Tony Bechara and Carolina von Humboldt, Tina and Simon Beriro, Violaine and John Bernbach, Cathie and Tom Black, Mercedes Bograd-Levin, Martha Bograd, Geoffrey Bradfield, Halim Bulos, Lady Liliana Cavendish, Marie de Foucaud and Renaud de Tilly, Their Royal Highnesses Crown Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece and Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece, Susan Gutfreund, Mai Hallingby Harrison, Dayssi Olarte de Kanavos, Alice Kandell, Eleanora Kennedy, Andrew Kepler, Ann-Hunter Van Kirk, Michèle Gerber Klein, Margo Langenberg, Alicia Lubowski, Mary McFadden, Grace and Chris Meigher, Malu and Sergio Millerman, Ann Nitze, Gautam Patel, Tom Quick, Ann Rapp, Pepita Serrano, Hunt Slonem, Benny Tabatabai, Ted Taylor, Barbara and Donald Tober, Monica and Ali Wambold, Daniela Wambold, Marina Wambold, and Maria Celis Wirth.
Fiesta is arguably the best party in New York. It attracts a glamorous international crowd for a lively evening that is light on speeches and great fun, all in the service of our serious purpose. Much of the operating budget of the organization is raised at the event – even without an auctioneer begging guests to open their wallet as seen at other charity events.
Casita Maria, the oldest Latin charity in New York City, provides high-quality, innovative arts programming to over 1,000 students daily both during and after school, producing participatory, well-rounded individuals who go on to fulfill their dreams. Located in the country’s poorest zip code, the South Bronx, Casita Maria Center for Arts & Education creates a safe and welcoming community, enriching and uplifting youth and families towards success, through shared cultural, art and educational experiences and programs.