Citigroup Inc. Chairman Richard Parsons waved a wand with flashing colored lights and a star at me.
“What’s your wish?” he asked Thursday night at the Make-A-Wish annual gala. Wands had been placed at every table.
A few seconds passed.
“Too late,” Parsons teased.
Fortunately the night wasn’t about making wishes, but rather raising money to fulfill the dreams of children with life-threatening illnesses.
The event raised $2.1 million -- $700,000 over the target - - with the help of honorees Jimmy Lee, vice chairman of JPMorgan Chase & Co., and Michael Delaney, managing partner of Court Square Capital Partners. The total was pushed up by two $100,000 pledges and more than 20 $1,000 pledges in a wishes auction.
The 600 guests included Mary Erdoes, chief executive officer of asset management at JPMorgan Chase, Julie Richardson, managing director, Providence Equity LLC, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. partners Sean Gallagher and Rebecca Shaghalian, and Dan Lufkin.
Lee’s remarks included thank-yous to financiers who made contributions but did not attend the event, among them Leon Black, Stephen Schwarzman and Stanley Druckenmiller.
Lee also made a wish that Theodore Forstmann, chairman and CEO of IMG Worldwide Inc., would beat cancer. “I’ve been his banker for 25 years,” Lee said.
Children’s wishes included digging for dinosaurs, meeting Warren Buffett and seeing how people robots are made. Last year the organization spent $4.4 million in direct costs, fulfilling 531 wishes and assisting on 262 others.
When Joe Ginem was 16 and going through treatment for bone cancer, he asked for a professional-quality violin. He is now 20 and completely recovered, and he plays his violin every day.
He performed a concerto by Jean-Baptiste Accolay at the event. Afterward, a guest told Ginem that he’d just made a $25,000 donation in his honor.
“That is a great feeling,” said Ginem, who is studying business at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, Florida. “Someday, I want to have enough money to be able to raise my hand and give $100,000.”
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)