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Previous Robin Hood Foundation benefits have chosen themes of Times Square and the New York subway system, so it was fitting to see another of the city's icons—the Brooklyn Bridge—as the centerpiece of this year's benefit, held Monday at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.
The foundation, which fights poverty in New York, chose a theme of “Bridge to Possibility” and again turned to David Stark Design and Production to design the event. The decor evoked different moods by depicting the bridge at sunset and late at night. Guests entered the event space through the gaping mouth of the Brooklyn Bridge, and draping printed with images of the city skyline gave the impression of walking across the bridge at sunset. Inside, black draping gave the reception space a nighttime feel with a 140-foot replica of the Brooklyn Bridge bisecting the reception space. Guests were invited to climb up the weight-bearing structure and stroll across the bridge, while others mingled underneath it. A paper moon, emblazoned with a silhouette of the Robin Hood logo, hung overhead.
To encourage guests to take their seats for dinner, the Hungry March Band led a New Orleans-style parade through the reception space with some members holding signs that read “Follow Us” and “It's Time to Eat.” In the dining room, the tables were arranged in waves of color, with orange, gold, and pink tablecloths evoking the sunset.
“The Brooklyn Bridge has been on our mind at Robin Hood for awhile since it's such as nice metaphor,” said Lindsay Carroll, one of the event's producers. “This year our focus is on helping immigrants in New York City. We are fund-raising for programs to help immigrants to get the foothold they need. That's where the bridges theme comes into play: Robin Hood has always seen itself as a bridge.”
The benefit raised $60 million—not reaching last year's high point of $80 million brought in for the foundation's 25th anniversary—but besting the $57 million raised in 2012. An Amazon drone delivered the night's fund-raising total, a nod to event co-chairman Jeff Bezos.
More than 4,000 guests attended the event, which offered a lineup of celebrity speakers and entertainers including New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, NBC's Brian Williams, HBO's John Oliver, comedian Jim Gaffigan, Live With Kelly and Michael host Michael Strahan. Strahan, a former New York Giant football player, called the evening “the Super Bowl of poverty-fighting events,” and at the end of the evening, this year's Super Bowl halftime entertainment, Bruno Mars, performed as headliner. Sting, unannounced, joined him for the final songs. Fun also performed a surprise song earlier in the program.
Union Square Events returned as the caterer and set up four kitchens to manage the meal service, almost as if it were serving four different parties, Carroll said. Hot Bread Kitchen, which receives Robin Hood funds to train immigrants to make goods inspired by their home countries, provided the bread baskets.