Outward Bound's Emotional Benefit

October 24, 2001, 12:00 AM EDT

Outward Bound USA Corporate Dinner benefit Cipriani 42nd Street Monday, 10.22.01, 6 PM onward
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Remember when people dreaded the speeches at benefit events? For some, the comments of M.C.s and honored guests were just patter between courses, or background noise during dinner conversation with tablemates. But that--for now at least--has changed since September 11. At Outward Bound USA's benefit dinner at Cipriani 42nd Street, 18-year-old Paul Darden was so moved by Senator John Edwards' speech that Darden had to be consoled as he began his own remarks about how Outward Bound changed his life, and the audience watched in attentive silence.

Edwards' speech about his late son, Wade, his Outward Bound experience and his death in an automobile accident moved Darden so much that tears ran down his face as he began speaking. After someone jumped on the stage and whispered in his ear that “everyone was on his side,” Darden spoke about how he changed from a “rebel without a cause to a rebel with a cause.” A giant screen from Scharff Weisberg captured the moving scene for the rapt crowd.

Originally, the dinner was billed as a corporate dinner to honor the Kohler chairman and CEO Herbert Kohler Jr., but after September 11, the dinner's emphasis changed slightly, as the focus became raising scholarship money for children of parents lost in the World Trade Center attack to participate in Outward Bound's programs. The dinner showed that some honest reflections and emotions can turn a corporate-style dinner into a more family-style event. The veal was a little tough; the risotto was unexceptional; the room was, as usual, spectacular; and the event was executed perfectly. But like many other recent events, what mattered was the gathering of strangers and supporters who were moved by a common experience. And Outward Bound is as relevant as ever. (Sixty years ago, as the World War II enveloped Europe, Outward Bound was established to help merchant seaman survive the physical hardships of war.)

Remarks from Outward Bound USA chairman of the board Frances Rubacha and president Richard Bangs set a tone of simplicity and confidence, and established a clear purpose for the evening. For the live auction portion of the benefit, auctioneer Michael Kaye traveled the room cajoling and convincing people to stretch their bids.

Read about last year's Outward Bound fall benefit...

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