While some nonprofits saw a noticeable dip in support during the pandemic, Julie Ratner, president of the Ellen Hermanson Foundation, reports that her organization managed to stay in the black without needing to cut down on the services it provides to East End women. And the fundraising never stops. Their first in-person gala back is aptly named Back in Black, and it’s coming to Hampton Racquet on Saturday, August 28.
“(Back in) Black because it’s better to be in the black than in the red, financially, so we’re giving a message that we’re doing nicely, we’re holding up, and we’re moving on with our fundraising, which means we can then fulfill our mission (to ensure access to state-of-the-art breast health care and to empower people affected by cancer),” Ratner says, adding that the color black can also serve as a somber reminder of the incredible loss and hardships brought about by the pandemic. She wants this event to encapsulate all of these ideas. “We still would like the overall feeling to be one of happy anticipation and joy because we can all be together outside in a tent, following all the necessary guidelines to be safe, and see each other again smartly and safely.”
Chaired by Jean Shafiroff, the Back in Black event honors Hampton Racquet Executive Director John Graham and Broadway/TV actress Tovah Feldshuh for their exceptional support of the Ellen Hermanson Foundation and commitment to the East End.
“He’s a marvelous, wonderful man who is so gracious and kind and so deserving of being recognized,” Ratner says, noting how popular his 2019 Day of Play fundraising event was with local families and kids. “John teaches these children with such joy. His own love of tennis is infectious, and his great respect of children comes through.”
As for Feldshuh, Ratner describes her as a “consummate actor.” She continues, “She’s also been an extraordinary, loyal, giving and generous friend to the foundation over the years, and she’s a person whom I respect so greatly because of her brilliance as an actor, because of the intelligence and integrity that she brings to the roles she plays.”
Since the event is taking place at Hampton Racquet in East Hampton, it will be catered by the facility’s resident Vietnamese restaurant V-Café. “The food she prepares is sensational, out of this world,” Ratner says of V-Café owner/chef Lan Cao. “It is so creative, so original and so incredibly delicious!”
The event includes a chance to dance with live entertainment by Lynn Blue Band, “a fabulous local who so many people know and admire and love her music” and a fabulous live auction led by Master of Ceremonies Robert Altmann, who’s know for his “great energy” in the role.
All funds raised from the auction and ticket proceeds will benefit the Ellen Hermanson Breast Center at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital and Ellen’s Well support programs. This money helps keep the breast center stocked with new equipment, helps pay for oncological social worker Edyle O’Brien, LCSW, to provide her services to Ellen’s Well full-time and more.
Previous events such as the recent Ellen’s Run have raised money that allows the Ellen Hermanson Foundation to offer free breast cancer screenings for uninsured women; increase its emergency fund, which helps women who otherwise can’t pay diagnostic breast healthcare expenses to get the help they need; provide transportation assistance to medical appointments; search for a bi-lingual, bi-cultural outreach worker; give out substantial grants; and fund new breast health programs in partnership with the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreation Center, OLA of Eastern Long Island, The Retreat and the Shinnecock Indian Health Center.
“Those are the types of activities and things that we continue to fundraise for because the need isn’t going away, and just because we fundraise for this one year doesn’t mean that we don’t need to do it the next year,” Ratner explains, noting that all of the money raised stays here on the East End. “We believe that people who live in our community have a right to access to quality care in their own community, and that’s what were trying to provide.”
Raising money for these lifesaving services year after year, Ratner has witnessed the support and generosity of the East End first-hand. “We live in a really spectacular, caring community, and when the community turns out for events and to support each other, we do wonderful things that make this community stronger, healthier, happier and more hopeful. I always feel it’s a privilege to be part of this community, and I’m grateful for all of the support we’ve received from so many generous donors and caring friends.”
The Back in Black gala takes place on Saturday, August 28, 6:30–10 p.m. outside at Hampton Racquet in East Hampton. For tickets, donations and more information, visit ellenhermanson.org.