It’s been a very special Christmas for Derwood Hodgegrass.
The Southampton billionaire took a break from his hard partying ways and aggressive pursuit of causes and projects (such as trying to turn Sag Harbor into the Jersey Shore) in order to use his wealth for good this Christmas Eve. Hodgegrass sent private jets to three of the most impoverished countries in the world, filled each plane with children, and then flew them back to a special Christmas wonderland on the eccentric playboy’s Southampton estate.
The children, from Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Bosnia, were blindfolded on the planes upon landing and then taken from East Hampton Airport by bus to Hodgegrass’ estate, which had been decorated like a storybook version of Santa’s North Pole.
“We quickly realized it’s not a good idea to blindfold kids from violent and war-torn countries,” a Hodgegrass staffer said, noting that many of the youngsters were “trembling with fear” when they were ushered off the buses. “It may have been worth it,” he added. “I imagine their joy compounded when the kids realized they wouldn’t be executed, or worse.”
Mistakes aside, all involved said the children were absolutely in awe of the bright lights, candy covered houses, little people dressed as elves, live penguins, baby polar bears and two acres of shimmering, lily-white snow. Hodgegrass had a large artificial ice skating pond and various carnival rides installed around the property and, while supervised, his young guests were given free rein of the place.
“It was a special day for everyone,” Hodgegrass said, beaming with pride. “They were flown home with full bellies and smiling faces,” the billionaire said, adding, “I’m sure they were overjoyed to celebrate this holy and family holiday freely.”
Before returning to Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Bosnia, Hodgegrass said he gave each child $500 gift cards to Toys R Us, Gap, Best Buy and, everyone’s favorite gadget store, The Sharper Image, “To take care of their needs back home.”