Bon Appétit Supper Club Dinner
On the evening of September 26, 2009, Joyful Heart's friends and supporters joined the Board of Directors and hosts Katie Couric, Marcia Gay Harden, Mary-Louise Parker and Ali Wentworth at Manhattan's Bon Appétit Supper Club & Café to toast Joyful Heart's Founder & President, Mariska Hargitay. Despite the rain, over one hundred twenty people turned out as guest chef Nate Appleman and musician Eric Lewis put their considerable talents to work to carry the message of healing and shine the light of hope for Joyful Heart.
And what an illuminating night it was. For a second time, Bon Appétit publisher Paul Jowdy generously offered the midtown Supper Club to Joyful Heart for this event. Guests including the Department of Justice's Catherine Peirce and Darlene Johnson, Commissioner Yolande Jimenez, Megan Sheeky, President of the Mayor's Fund to Advance NYC, Alex Cohen, Nancy Jarecki, Nancy Ellison and Bill Rollnick, along with fellow SVU cast member Richard Belzer and producer Ted Kotcheff enjoyed a warm reception downstairs. There, they met and mingled with other crusading Joyful Heart supporters including Me&Ro's Robin Renzi, Liz Claiborne's Jane Randel, and philosophy's Karolyn Stayer before moving upstairs to the dining room for an evening of inspired cuisine and inspiring words.
Katie Couric began by sharing a letter to Joyful Heart from a founding member of Moms and Dads for Education (MADE) to Stop Teen Dating Abuse:
I am the father of two children. Our son, David, is in his senior year in college. Our daughter, Kristin, was murdered by her boyfriend when she was twenty-one, three weeks after she graduated from Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia in May 2005.
Kristin was a trusting, innocent and peaceful person. She didn't know there's a huge difference between a guy who cares a lot about you and a guy who keeps tabs on you incessantly. She didn't know dating violence could be someone's excessive controlling behavior, not only hitting or abusive language.
The day of her murder, Kristin texted her boyfriend: 'You are being ridiculous. Why can't I do something with my friends?' and 'You are so controlling today.' She sent me the last email of her life, a half hour before she was attacked, which reads, in part: 'It was a hard thing to do, but I had to tell him I needed space…'
She was stabbed and slashed 55 times, with defensive wounds to her arms and hands and eleven wounds to her back.
My wife and I firmly believe that Kristin failed to recognize the warning signs of the unhealthy relationship she was in because education about this was not available when she was in school. And as parents, we also didn't know what to look for.
Education about teen dating violence is still not mandated in most states today. This problem is not going away if parents don't address it with their kids directly and demand that their schools address it in the classroom.
I'm writing to say how grateful we are that Mariska and Peter have joined MADE, Moms and Dads for Education to Stop Teen Dating Abuse, and for Joyful Heart's commitment to building our coalition and to help expand our reach.
My wife, Michele, my son, David, and I thank you. And I know that wherever she is watching you from, Kristin thanks you.
Lee Woodruff then read from a poem written by a JHF retreat participant:
Fear Used to
Not knowing it
I took it.
It is true
The elegantly understated Mary-Louise Parker read a note written by a Joyful Heart supporter, a woman who had purchased a Joyful Nuddle. Upon hearing that, because of her purchase, a blanket would also be donated to a woman in a Joyful Heart program, this supporter was moved to include words to be given with the blanket, which Mary-Louise shared:
Dear Beautiful Survivor,
Just as this blanket will comfort you, wrap yourself in the knowledge
that your journey from a place of darkness will lead you to a
Don't allow your past to define all that you
are and all that you can be. Shine your light far and wide.
Conquering the darkness. Allow a stronger woman to emerge.
Though I haven't had the pleasure of meeting you, I think about who
you could be--a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend--and
how much your story matters.
I will think of you often and hope my gift to you has touched you in the same way that you
have touched me. I wish you nothing but the best on your road to
healing and joy.
P.S. Lotus flowers bloom in the mud...
Guests were dazzled by the talents of chef Nate Appleman who brought some Southern Italian warmth to the autumn evening with his menu, which included Pappa al Pomodoro (marinated octopus with basil and olives) and a Country Pork Chop, accompanied by roasted carrots, fennel, pancetta and baby mustard greens-a truly divine menu offered in celebration of our collective mission.
Joyful Heart Board Member, Peter Hermann, brought the audience up-to-date on all of our organization's progress and new initiatives. He unveiled Joyful Heart's latest outreach program, our quarterly magazine, Reunion. He spoke to our newly launched Heal the Healers program, designed to offer support to those who care for trauma survivors-social workers, therapists, emergency room workers, police officers, crisis workers, etc.-people who, because of the work they do, are often sufferers of vicarious trauma. And he introduced the "frustratingly humble" Catherine Pierce, the Acting Director of the Office on Violence Against Women.
I would like to hope that she has found a path to healing and recovery and my dream is that she might someday find her way to a Joyful Heart retreat where she can continue to reclaim herself through experiencing joy, hope, and the possibility life held for her the day she was born.
Finally, she thanked Mariska for being the first prominent public figure to commit to a Department of Justice initiative of public outreach on the issues of violence against women and children.
Please raise your glasses and join me in offering a toast to someone who has done so much to help us elevate the issue and begin a new and revitalized national conversation.
Mariska, you are joy itself and have given me, my colleagues, and so many survivors something pure and simple: HOPE. With you at our side we know we are not alone.
-Catherine Pierce, Acting Director of the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice
Mariska herself wrapped up the dinner with the flair and genuine grace that she possesses, thanking everyone for their continued commitment to turn toward the issues of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse. And before sending everyone home with their "marching orders," she introduced perhaps the evening's biggest and most joyful surprise: musician Eric Lewis.
Guests moved downstairs and were treated to one of the most transcendent musical performances many had ever witnessed. To watch and hear Eric Lewis play the piano is to watch true genius unfold and many that night were moved to tears. This humble virtuoso offered the audience a further reminder of why we gather around this issue when he said "I wasn't sure what this evening was about, what it would hold, but now I understand that it's about abuse. I know a little something about that myself."
The entire experience would not have been possible without the generous support of Bon Appétit. For their support, for the culinary genius of Nate Appleman, and for the courage and determination of all our supporters, we are deeply grateful.