Thursday night Lloyd Blankfein addressed 1,200 guests gathered at the Park Avenue Armory for the New York Police & Fire Widows’ & Children’s Benefit Fund 10-13 Answer the Call Gala.
“At a time in this country when there’s so much disunity, it’s nice to find a cause on which everyone can agree,” said Blankfein, the chairman and chief executive of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and the event’s honoree.
It must also have been nice, a month into the Occupy Wall Street protests, to be Lloyd Blankfein and be so warmly welcomed.
“People should appreciate his courage coming out here tonight,” said Patrick Kelly, president and chief operating officer of Brigade Capital Management LLC, speaking from his dinner seat.
“He’s a great American success story,” said Stephen Dannhauser, chairman of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP and of the Police & Fire Widows’ & Children’s Benefit Fund, at the lectern. “That’s what the children of our widows are looking for.”
Twenty-five children of deceased police officers and firefighters sang “God Bless America” at the event.
The fund provides financial assistance to families of New York City police officers and fire fighters killed in the line of duty including Port Authority police officers and emergency medical service workers. In its 26 years, it has helped 700 families.
The gala, along with efforts leading up to it, raised $2 million. Guests included Blackstone Group LP chairman and CEO Steve Schwarzman (and a table of analysts and associates from the firm); Deutsche Bank AG’s head of asset management, Kevin Parker; Mark Messier, former New York Rangers center; and Alan Greenberg, former chief executive of Bear Stearns & Co.
Bagpipes and Drums
“What could be easier to give to?” Greenberg said moments before a ceremonial unit of fire fighters and police officers marched down the aisles playing the bagpipes and drums.
Decor consisted of two New York Fire Department trucks with their ladders extended to the ceiling. From the balconies hung 343 American flags honoring the 343 New York fire fighters who died on Sept. 11, 2001.
“My brother was with Ladder 5,” said the fund’s director of development, Linda Giammona. “He was my best friend. He died helping people, and I feel I should live helping people.”
The meal was steak au poivre, potatoes and spinach flan. For dessert, waiters passed brownie ice cream sandwiches.
In a live auction, George McNeely of Christie’s sold two rides on Marine 1, the New York City Fire Department’s historic fireboat, for $22,000 each. Shannon Riley, a social worker, won a day with New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly for $25,000.
“I was bidding on behalf of my family’s foundation,” Riley said, before introducing her mom, dad and two sisters. “We haven’t decided which sister gets to go.”
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)