Record-breaking NY Bag Ladies Luncheon Makes Fashion Headlines

New York’s Prominent Philanthropists Raise Thousands at S.L.E. Lupus Foundation Luncheon

NEW YORK, NY – April 25, 2012 – Hundreds of New York’s leading “bag ladies” gathered at the fourth annual S.L.E. Lupus Foundation’s New York Bag Ladies Luncheon to raise $250,000 for those struggling with the devastating disease lupus. The event included a silent auction of donated designer and celebrity handbags and a sumptuous luncheon at 583 Park Avenue in Manhattan.

Two outstanding women were honored for their long-time support of the work of the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation: Matilda Raffa Cuomo, Former First Lady of New York State, Founder and Chair of Mentoring USA National/International and author of the new book The Person Who Changed My Life, and Mary E. Belle, President, Licensing at The Jones Group which includes iconic lifestyle brands such as Anne Klein, Jones New York and Nine West. Serving as Mistress of Ceremonies, opera legend and S.L.E. Lupus Foundation Board member Jessye Norman honored Mary Belle while Governor Mario Cuomo had the special privilege of presenting his wife with her award.

“My wife exemplifies a woman of achievement in every aspect of her life, and I have been proud of her association with the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation,” said Governor Cuomo. “She and Mary Belle are truly deserving of this recognition.”

Matilda Cuomo commented, “All of us have been impacted by both men and women of achievement. For my book, 80 of the country’s notables in fashion, Hollywood and politics shared stories about a mentor who had greatly influenced them,” said Matilda Cuomo. “My first mentor was my fourth-grade teacher who gave me direction and helped shape my life. But there is one special lady — Jennie DeScherer — without whom I might never have appreciated the challenges involved with lupus. Jennie is truly an inspiration to all of us. She juggles her roles as a wife and mother while coping with a debilitating disease and simultaneously making a valuable difference for others by serving on the Board of the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation to support the science and services for all people with lupus.”

“It is difficult to see the people I care about, both family and friends, wrestle with this terrible disease, and my hope in serving on the Board of the Foundation is that one day others will not have to suffer. Until then we strive to make their lives easier today,” said honoree Mary Belle. “Unraveling the mysteries of lupus will help the millions suffering with the more than 80 other related autoimmune diseases.”

Who’s Who of Attendees Touched by People with Lupus

In addition to Governor Cuomo, several members of their family including Dr. Margaret Cuomo, Maria Cuomo Cole and Cristina Greeven Cuomo were among the audience recognizing Matilda’s contributions. Additional S.L.E. Lupus Foundation Board members in attendance include Founder and Vice President Susan Golick; President Richard DeScherer; Jennie DeScherer; Bonnie Englebardt Lautenberg, wife of Senator Frank Lautenberg and Michelle Gadsden-Williams, Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Credit Suisse. Also from the Foundation’s Board were Fern Tessler; Betsey Selkowitz; Carol Weisman and Kate Kelly.  

Working Miracles

The event turned generously donated designer and celebrity handbags into pocket-books full of miracles; a silent auction raised funding for the science needed to find a cure for lupus as well as the necessary services to help patients live with the disease day to day.

“The funds raised today literally work miracles for those faced with lupus,” said Margaret Dowd, Executive Director, S.L.E. Lupus Foundation. “We are able to offer direct support services to patients, send children with lupus to summer camp and provide families with emergency assistance. And on the science side, many discoveries in lupus have been made possible by research grants funded by the Foundation.”