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Helen Keller International holds its Annual Spirit of Helen Keller Gala...

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This year's annual Spirit of Helen Keller Gala, since 1959, was held at 583 Park Avenue Carriage House on May 10, 2017.

Carla Hall
, Honorary Chair and co-host of ABC's Emmy award-winning popular series “ The Chew” opened the evening with PS22 Choir, a group of 5th graders singing on stage.   She was a finalist in the fifth and eighth seasons of Top Chef, Bravo's cooking competition show.It was a special evening celebrating the dedications of individuals and institutions continuing Helen Keller's mission.  The 2017 Helen Keller Humanitarian Award was given to Jim Alling, Chief Executive Officer of TOMS.  TOMS utilizes pioneering One for One business model to improve lives by matching every pair of shoes purchased with a new pair of shoes for a child in need.  The company launched other products for TOMS eyewear, TOMS Roasting Co., TOMS Bags and TOMS Local Backpack Collection under One for One program.

It was followed by an engaging speech by Kathy Spahn, President & CEO of HKI, elaborating on the missions and endeavors of HKI.  Their extraordinary work includes reaching out to homeless children and providing them with vision screening and prescription glasses.   It is one thing trying to find shelter and food.  But not being able to see on top of that poses another monumental struggle and danger for these children on the street.

The highlight of the evening was a live auction for travel packages.  It was thrilling to see a number of hands going up among attendees to bid and donate $10,000, $5,000 and other denominations to support the cause of HKI.  Funds raised will help to prevent blindness, reduce malnutrition and prevent and treat disabling diseases.

All proceeds from The Spirit of Helen Keller Gala go towards sight- and life- saving work of Helen Keller International.  Their primary mandates are ChildSight, Saving Sight, Nourishing Families & Protecting Health.The gala also featured a delightful performance by Faada Freddy born in Senegal, a hip-hop artist and gospel singer.  Faada’s first EP, released digitally in 2014, led to sold-out shows and a media exhibition.

Helen Keller International, founded in 1915, is dedicated to saving the sight and lives of the most vulnerable, disadvantaged and in poverty.  The organization has more than 120 programs in 12 African and 8 Asian countries, as well as in the United States.   Examples of their works are:

35,000 cataract surgeries were performed last year by HKI-trained surgeons in Myanmar.

66,000 disadvantaged youth in the United States had their vision screened last year, and nearly 15,400 were provided with free prescription glasses.

Last year alone, the organization reached 45 million children under five with twice-yearly, high-dosage vitamin A supplements in 15 African countries. They also collaborate with government and private sector partners on initiatives that reaches nearly 300 million people across Africa with vitamin A-fortified staple foods, such as cooking oil and wheat flour.

This simple yet powerful solution costs just $1 per child per year. Helen Keller International distributes more than 100 million vitamin A capsules to children under five in Africa and Asia each year.

Most of every dollar the charity spends, 84.1 cents, goes directly to help save the sight and lives of vulnerable children and their families.   Helen Keller International has once again earned a "4 Star" rating from Charity Navigator and is the proud recipient of the 2014 Henry R. Kravis Prize in Leadership.

More of the organization can be found at

Editor in Chief:  Christine Lee    Contributing Writer:  Mitchell Acks       Photos by Christine Lee

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