19th Annual Miracle on Madison

As the season's first snowfall blanketed city streets earlier this month, The Children's Aid Society (CAS) and Madison Avenue Business Improvement District (BID) kicked off the 19th Annual Miracle on Madison. As forecasted by the CAS press release, New York's holiday spirit was on full display, the December 4th charity shopping event brought together leading luxury retailers, restaurants, and galleries on Madison Avenue between 57th and 86th Streets to aid New York's neediest children. For the second consecutive year, The Bank of New York was the event's exclusive financial sponsor and Gotham Magazine was the exclusive media sponsor. Despite the freezing temperatures, volunteers and shoppers alike came out to lend their support to this important cause. As the clock struck twelve, hundreds gathered at the intersection of 69th and Madison where CAS President, Angela Diaz, CAS Chief Executive Officer C. Warren Moses, Madison Avenue BID President Matt Bauer, Bank of New York Senior Vice President Kevin Bannon, and actor Tony Danza were all on hand for the ribbon-cutting ceremony following a special performance by the CAS Chorus.

Manuel Rosario's drawing was used on the collateral for this year's event

According to the website, The Children's Aid Society, one of the country's oldest and largest child welfare agencies, was founded in 1853. It is one of the nation's largest non-profit non-sectarian agencies, serving over 150,000 of New York's disadvantaged youth and their families with an innovative network of services that includes school- and community-based health centers, a mobile dental van, medical, dental, and mental health services, adoption and foster care services for children with severe and chronic medical and emotional problems, teen pregnancy prevention and education. Miracle on Madison was created in 1987 by Martha Dupee and Noonie Marx, co-founders of the Madison Avenue Fund for Children. Since its inception, Miracle on Madison has raised over $5.5 million for charity.

'300,000 kids don't receive health care. Hundreds of thousands more receive inadequate health care and 29% of children in New York City are poor.' CAS CEO C. Warren Moses delivered these startling statistics as he thanked the Madison Avenue BID and The Bank of New York, 'who like CAS was founded more than 150 years ago for insuring the financial integrity of the event.' Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Giorgio Armani, Gucci, Prada, Jimmy Choo, Dolce & Gabbana and Crate & Barrel, were among the 125 participants who generously donated 20% of the day's sales to The Children's Aid Society. The Society's health care programs receive 70,000 visits a year and provide much needed care to children who might not otherwise get basic medical attention.

Actor and talk show host, Tony Danza, shows his support

Mr. Moses introduced New York's own Tony Danza who said, 'I am really happy to be out [here] again this year. I remember being a kid growing up in Brooklyn, hearing the commercials for CAS.' Echoing Mr. Moses' sentiment he continued, 'It's hard to believe that in the greatest city in the world there are 300,000 kids without heath care' It's not just in New York, it's a national problem. It's nice that there are organizations like this in the trenches helping kids out.'

Madison Avenue BID President, Matt Bauer also said a few words, 'We're happy to be a part of this event. Thanks to The Children's Aid Society staff, the 125 participating merchants, the sanitation crews who came out early to shovel the snow and the NYPD for providing additional security; keeping the streets safe, secure, and clean.' He also thanked additional sponsors, Gotham Magazine, Douglas Elliman, and Divalysscious Moms.

Angela Diaz, C. Warren Moses, Tony Danza, Kevin Bannon, Matthew Bauer, and Leslie Goodridge cut the ribbon!

With a rapidly falling barometer sending the temperature plummeting to 28 degrees, the merrymakers huddled between the Gucci and Miu Miu storefronts for the ceremony. The crowd, which was with filled with volunteers wrapped in apple green fringed scarves from The Bank of New York, watched on as music director Kelly Campbell led the CAS Chorus [of two dozen or so youngsters] in heart-warming renditions of 'Frosty the Snowman' and 'Jingle Bell Rock.' The Choristers were outfitted in red fringed scarves, with coordinating berets and gloves. Neighborhood residents and employees also came out in support with their families. There was a very 'Norman Rockwell' feeling to the afternoon with freeze frames of small children celebrating, singing, dancing' all bundled up and seemingly undeterred by the subfreezing temperatures. And with a few snips, the ribbon was cut and a gateway to the shopping extravaganza opened, as Mr. Moses charged the crowd to, 'Shop 'til you drop and have a great time!'

Madison Avenue was closed off to vehicular traffic from 68th to 72nd Streets for the annual charity event, the only day of the year that the thoroughfare is closed. My first stop was the CAS Hospitality tent. It was one of four conveniently stationed between 68th and 72nd Streets. As the media advisory promised, it offered shelter from the cold, food, gift wrapping services, and spa treatments' allowing for a chance to unwind and rejuvenate for the next round of shopping. I had skipped breakfast and was extremely grateful for the complimentary juice and delicious pastries. There was CAS literature on hand; wreaths for sale ranging in size from 10-18'; as well as co-sponsors Gotham Magazine dispensing complimentary issues; party planners Divalysscious Moms selling holiday CD's and raffling off a free event; Margaret Palca Bakes offered homemade snowman cookies (with proceeds going to CAS); and the piece de resistance was a box of holiday cards with artwork drawn by children who directly benefit from CAS' services!

As a Little Star, Inc. arts program particpant, Sheniqua Adams' drawing is made into a card

The Bank of New York presented two tents this year a gift-wrap tent and a spa tent. Founded in 1784, The Bank of New York is a global leader in providing a comprehensive array of services. As the oldest bank in New York, the Company has a long tradition of collaborating with clients to deliver innovative solutions. After a few holiday purchases, I took advantage of the new complimentary gift-wrapping station at 71st Street. Later, I popped into the Clarins Spa Tent at 72nd Street, to partake in the one of their relaxing treatments, where I was greeted by young charmer Ryan Wietes, who offered me a candy cane. With the slogan '$10 for ten minutes', the Parisian skincare line served up a menu of mini makeovers, facials, and hand-treatments to 'combat the dreaded shopper's fatigue' I continued on to the Taste of Madison Avenue Tent at 68th Street, presented by the Madison Avenue BID, where I sampled gourmet selections from area restaurants for $5.00 a taste. For the first time, Centolire Restaurant, an upscale Italian eatery, and Chocolates Debauve & Gallais, a stateside outpost of the famous Parisian chocolatier, joined The Restaurant Carlyle and other eateries in the extremely popular Taste Tent. And as if all of that weren't enough, the Manhattan Rickshaw Company also provided complimentary pedicabs rides to weary shoppers.

Madison Avenue is known worldwide as a shopper's paradise. On the first Sunday in December, the snow covered walkways were converted into a winter wonderland with event placards and blue CAS balloons tied outside the storefronts of participating merchants. As I wandered up and down the avenue, in and out of chic boutiques, I skipped along the sidewalk to the holiday music pouring from the speakers affixed to the lampposts. Admittedly, I am a big kid at Christmastime, so it didn't take much cajoling to get me singing along to classics  like 'Christmas Song', 'Winter Wonderland', 'White Christmas' and my all-time favorite 'Sleigh Ride.' All that holiday cheer and benevolent spirit somehow made it feel a little less cold' coming from someone who grew up in California, that's saying a lot.

Nija Howard's artwork is also translated into a note card

Crate & Barrel and Ralph Lauren (share the award for being the busiest). Crate & Barrel was very well stocked with seasonal staff on hand to answer questions, carry items, and ring up purchases. I stocked up on lovely tree ornaments and party supplies. The helpful staff and delightful selection at C&B never disappoint: inspiring me with festive decorating tips for my home and clever ideas to make my annual holiday party a rousing success! Ralph Lauren was bustling as holiday shoppers warmed up in front of the giant hearth on a sunken level of the flagship. Donna Karan gets the award for the most sumptuous merchandising with a 25' tree covered in white lights. Red and white ensembles dressed the front windows and the banister of a spiral staircase was enveloped in holly branches. Donna Karan was one of the participating retailers who also welcomed customers in from the cold with wine and desserts. Weighed down by shopping bags, it felt especially good to know that I was contributing, if only in a small way, to such a worthy cause. These are things that I was planning to buy anyway. So why not make the purchases on a day when it would do the most good?

According to the Foundation's fact sheet, The Children's Aid Society which celebrated its sesquicentennial a couple years ago has a single mission: to do whatever New York City's neediest children need. Their goal is to ensure the physical and emotional well-being of children and families, and to provide every child with the support and opportunities needed to become a happy, healthy, and successful adult. Their services address every aspect of a child's life, from infancy through adolescence, and include education, health, counseling, adoption, foster care, career readiness, arts, recreation, and emergency assistance. The idea of an organization devoted to children was revolutionary when Charles Loring Brace and a small group of social reformers came together to found the Society in 1853. It was revolutionary to think in terms of saving children, revolutionary even to see their needs. But Mr. Brace did see them, and in its first 50 years, the Society's record of achievement included: the first PTA, the first visiting nurse service, the first free school lunch programs, and the first day schools for handicapped children.

Angela Diaz, C. Warren Moses, Tony Danza, Kevin Bannon, Matthew Bauer, and Leslie Goodridge join the CAS Choristers

Today, The CAS serves families in all parts of the city and surrounding areas, without regard to race, religion, nationality or socio-economic status. The Organization works through community centers, camps, public schools, courts, and in children's own homes. While most of their work is in New York City, they have also started teen pregnancy prevention programs and community schools in almost 100 cities throughout the United States. According to the 2005 Annual Report, CAS operates 40 sites and has an annual operating budget of over $76 million with 92 cents out of every expense dollar being spent directly on services for children.

It's tragic to think that 40% of homeless individuals in New York City today are children, but CAS is truly doing their part to 'make miracles happen.' Last year's Miracle on Madison Avenue raised over $300,000 and was attended by more than 35,000 shoppers! CAS Public Relations Manager Emily Crossan informed me that they won't have all the final tallies until after the New Year, but judging from the foot traffic, many seemed to be getting a jump on their holiday shopping while enjoying a multitude of activities up and down the avenue. Let's hope for another wonderfully successful year' matching if not exceeding their totals for 2004!

For additional information on CAS, kindly visit www.childrensaidsociety.org.

For additional information on Madison Avenue BID, kindly visit, www.madisonavenuebid.org.

For additional information on The Bank of New York, kindly visit www.bankofny.com.

Event images taken by photographer Djamilla Rosa Cochran and provided courtesy of Emily Crossan of The Children's Aid Society and WireImage, for more information kindly visit www.wireimage.com.




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