• Ronald McDonald House funds perks for kids, including fries
  • PEN America gathers defenders of freedom of expression

Jes Staley, who visits New York a week per month now that he runs Barclays in London, got a lot of Americana out of his Monday night at the Chinese-owned Waldorf-Astoria in midtown Manhattan.

Debora and Jes Staley
Debora and Jes Staley
Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

For starters, he was the honoree of a gala for the city’s Ronald McDonald House. More than 300 houses worldwide, supported by McDonald’s franchise owners and named after the U.S. fast-food chain’s red-haired mascot, provide temporary housing to kids stricken with cancer and their families during treatment.

Mascot in the flesh
Mascot in the flesh
Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

Ronald McDonald himself was on the premises, looking sharp in his bright yellow onesie. The silent auction offered framed ephemera from American pop-culture icons, including signatures of Hillary Clinton, Taylor Swift and "Back to the Future" stars Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd -- as well as a "Clint Eastwood masterpiece collage" featuring Dirty Harry’s line, "Do you feel lucky, punk?" (starting bid: $500).

Boston-born Staley was looking more British than usual, joked Frank Bisignano, CEO of First Data and a former colleague of Staley’s at JPMorgan. But then a video rolled, in which Staley showed off his New York pride: "The humanity you find in New York City is one of the great beacons for mankind," Staley said after describing how Barclays employees volunteered to serve meals at the Ronald McDonald House in Manhattan.

When Staley visited, "he had a real affinity for the kids," said Tina Lundgren, the chairman of Ronald McDonald House New York, the nonprofit that supports the East 73rd Street location and raised more than $3.5 million from the benefit.

This particular Ronald McDonald House has 84 rooms and is adding eleven more, including six suites designed for bone-marrow transplant patients. In addition to providing shelter, the house is designed to help cheer kids up with "weird science" programs and visits from therapy dogs dubbed "angels on a leash."

Reggie, distinguished gala guest
Reggie, distinguished gala guest
Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

One such dog, Reggie, a Goldendoodle, was on hand at the gala, seated with her owners, television journalists Andrea Joyce and Harry Smith.

As for McDonald’s french fries and Big Macs: "if a kid wants french fries, we can arrange that," Lundgren said, but more often families eat meals prepared in Ronald McDonald House’s own kitchens, which parents can also use. There are, however, carts offering McDonald’s coffee.

On to British icons: Harry Potter’s creator, J.K. Rowling, was honored with the Literary Service Award at the PEN America gala and she talked of Donald Trump.

J.K. Rowling
J.K. Rowling
Photographer: Beowulf Sheehan/PEN America via Bloomberg

"Only last year, we saw an online petition to bar Donald Trump from entry to the U.K.," Rowling said. "It garnered half a million signatures. Now, I find almost everything that Mr. Trump says objectionable. I consider him offensive completely, but he has my full support to come to my country. His freedom to speak protects my freedom to call him a bigot. His freedom guarantees mine."

Michael Pietsch and Andrew Solomon
Michael Pietsch and Andrew Solomon
Photographer: Beowulf Sheehan/PEN America via Bloomberg

The gala at the American Museum of Natural History drew publishers (Hachette Book Group CEO Michael Pietsch was honored and dined next to Sarah Jessica Parker, who introduced Rowling with an anecdote about the fandom of her son, James Wilkie), editors (Molly Stern, Nan Talese, Cindy Spiegel) and authors (Donna Tartt introduced Pietsch; others included Alex Berenson, Robert Caro, Ron Chernow and PEN America’s president, Andrew Solomon).

Lightyear Capital’s Donald Marron, Gotham Asset Management’s Joel Greenblatt and Wilbur Ross also attended. PEN America Executive Director Suzanne Nossel asked guests to pick up magic markers and write messages to imprisoned Egyptian writer Ahmed Naji, which were posted during a dessert reception.

Honoree Mona Hanna-Attisha of Flint, Michigan, who discovered that the number of cases of lead poisoning had doubled after the city moved to a new water system, met author Zadie Smith as they departed the event, which raised more than $1.75 million.

Mona Hanna-Attisha meets Zadie Smith
Mona Hanna-Attisha meets Zadie Smith
Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg
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