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New York's Top Benefits 2009

Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation's Kids for Kids Benefit
Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation's Kids for Kids Benefit
Photo: Joshua Cicerone

1. The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute Benefit
This fashion-centric party will be even more so on May 4, when it celebrates the Met’s new exhibit “The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion.” The 2008 benefit attracted Tom Cruise, George Clooney, and Scarlett Johansson. Marc Jacobs is this year’s honorary chair, along with co-chairs Kate Moss, Justin Timberlake, and Vogue’s Anna Wintour.

2. Robin Hood Foundation Benefit
This gala dinner and auction dwarfs every other benefit in terms of fund-raising, pulling in $56.5 million in 2008 (down 21 percent from 2007’s record haul). A whopping 3,720 guests at the Javits Center enjoyed performances from Shakira, John Legend, and Sheryl Crow.

3. Whitney Museum of American Art Fall Gala
The Versace-sponsored October 2008 party included a traditional gala dinner in the museum’s third-floor gallery, as well as a hipper event downstairs. Sting performed for guests such as Mariah Carey, Patrick Dempsey, and Donatella Versace.

4. American Ballet Theatre Spring Gala
On May 18, big donors will be treated to highlights from the ballet’s spring season at the Metropolitan Opera House, followed by a black-tie dinner dance in the Tent at Lincoln Center. The always socially important gala brought out a mix of big names in 2008, including Donald Trump, Kelly Ripa, and Sigourney Weaver.

5. Frick Collection’s Young Fellows Ball
About 700 guests will fill the Frick’s garden court February 26 for this year’s “Les Liasons Dangereuses” celebration of works by French painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard. The masked ball raised more than $250,000 for the museum’s education fund in 2008.

6. The Museum of Modern Art’s Party in the Garden
The MoMA crowd got a cooler-than-you-might-expect event last June, with a live performance from hip-hop star M.I.A. and a DJ set from indie band LCD Soundsystem. The 40th annual party raised $2.5 million from the 800 guests.

7. The Metropolitan Opera’s Opening-Night Gala
The opera celebrated its 125th anniversary in September 2008 with a live set from soprano Renée Fleming. The performance at the Metropolitan Opera House was transmitted live to outdoor screens at Fordham University and Times Square and 600 theaters throughout North and South America.

8. New York Public Library Lions Benefit
Edward Albee and Salman Rushdie were among those honored at the library’s November 2008 event, where Toni Morrison was M.C. The evening included a dinner at the Humanities and Social Sciences Library and a disco dance party in its Astor Room. The event raised $2.5 million.

9. Central Park Conservancy’s Frederick Law Olmsted Awards Luncheon
The Women’s Committee of the Central Park Conservancy raised $2.4 million for Central Park at the 26th edition of this party in 2008, held in the park’s Conservatory Garden. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Martha Stewart were among the guests at the luncheon, slated to return May 6.

10. Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Spring Gala
The Cancer Center reconceived its 10-year-old Awards for Excellence benefit as a spring gala in 2008, moving the party to the Plaza hotel and raising $3 million from 450 guests. The gala returns to the Plaza on May 13.

11. The New York Botanical Garden’s Conservancy Ball
One of the long-standing highlights of the spring benefit season, this June bash is likely the only event that lures more than 700 socialites to the Bronx each year. The gala fund-raiser is held at the garden’s Enid A. Haupt Conservatory greenhouse.

12. Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation’s Kids for Kids Benefit
The Kids for Kids program celebrated its 15th anniversary in September 2008 with a party at the Seventh Regiment Armory that raised nearly $2 million for this H.I.V. treatment and prevention organization. Model Tyson Beckford, artist Jeff Koons, and actress Lorraine Bracco joined socialites and kindergarteners for this circus-themed event.

13. Friends of the High Line Benefit
The nonprofit that spearheaded efforts to build the city’s newest park has thrown this benefit since 2001. In 2008, a cocktail party at the IAC Building, followed by dinner at the David Zwirner Gallery, raised $2.5 million from 700 guests. This year’s June 15 gala will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the group and the long-awaited opening of the High Line park.

14. Winter Antiques Show Opening Night Gala
Some 2,500 guests are expected at the Seventh Regiment Armory January 22 for the opening night of this antiques show. Mayor Bloomberg joined a socialite-heavy set for the 2008 gala, which benefits the East Side Settlement House.

15. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Opening Gala
Oprah Winfrey was to be the honored guest and honorary co-chair at Alvin Ailey’s December 2008 gala. The party at the New York Sheraton hotel celebrated the dance company’s 50th anniversary.

16. New York City Ballet Opening Night Benefit
The ballet kicked off its holiday production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker with a gala at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center on November 25. Gala guests were treated to a one-time-only collaboration between the ballet, the New York City Opera, and the Juilliard Jazz Orchestra.

17. Breast Cancer Research Foundation Benefit
Elton John performs at this April benefit, also dubbed the “Hottest Pink Party Ever.” Elizabeth Hurley was M.C. at the 2008 event, which raised $5 million for B.C.R.F. 

18. New York City Opera’s Spring Gala
About 600 guests turned out for a March performance of King Arthur, the anchor of the 2008 gala, which raised $1 million for the opera. Due to construction, the 2009 gala was moved up to January 15 and featured a performance of Antony & Cleopatra.

19. Museum of the City of New York’s Director’s Council Winter Ball
This Christian Dior-sponsored bash will close out the winter gala season with a 600-person party at the Fifth Avenue museum on March 9.

20. Municipal Art Society Gala
This winter ball moved to two new locations in 2008, with a cocktail party at the Four Seasons restaurant and dinner on the plaza of the Seagram Building. The November party honored outgoing M.A.S. president Kent Barwick with the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Medal.

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