MSK Cancer Center Society Launches Mental Health Initiative With a Fashion Crowd

Attendees of the Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s Winter Lunch turned up for altruism, but they turned out in pure fashion.

Air kisses abounded in the Rainbow Room, where most guests abandoned New York City’s all-black dress code in favor of springlike dresses — polka dots, florals and artisanal colors — and heels. Rebekah McCabe, Elizabeth Kurpis, Jane Keltner de Valle, Kimberly Nemser, Libby Fitzgerald, Lisa McCarthy, Meghan Klopp, Austen Cruz and Priya Shukla were among the many making the rounds. And Mark Gilbertson was one of the few nonfemale guests.

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Attendees mingled and modeled just what many luxury brands are after — well-dressed women with effortless style. Indubitably, that was a welcome sight for Alison Loehnis, president of Net-a-porter, Mr. Porter and The Outnet, since Net-a-porter sponsored the event for the ninth consecutive year. She said, “We’ve always felt that fashion, in addition to being fun and empowering, can be a force for good and a force for change.”

Fox’s “Good Day New York” anchor Rosanna Scotto, a 4:30 a.m. riser, took notice, too. “Everybody is dressed to the nines — capes, jewelry. I just came from work so I’ve got the TV anchor outfit on, which does not compare to what they do.”

Underselling her leather-sleeved maroon dress from Chiara Boni La Petite Robe, she was among the supporters who have contributed to MSK in a more proactive way, having done an on-air segment about its “Miracle on Madison” program, which supports pediatric care through earmarked boutique sales. “It’s important. You walk along Madison Avenue sometimes, and you don’t see a single person in those stores. The ‘Miracle on Madison’ gave everyone a little nudge.”

Having just celebrated the 30th anniversary of her family’s restaurant Fresco by Scotto, she understands that doing business in the city “is not easy.” Persevering just the same, Scotto now runs the East 52nd Street dinery with her daughter, Jenna. “It’s funny — it used to be the whole family and now it’s down to Jenna and me — like I need another job,” she said with a laugh.

The Society of MSK’s president Muffie Potter Aston had her daughter Bracie in tow. Bracie is spending her gap year, working for another media type, jourmalist Holly Peterson, whose current projects include a book about her stepmother and “Sesame Street” co-creator Joan Ganz Cooney. “To think, you used to watch ‘Sesame Street’ it was Elmo that you loved. And now you’re doing a coffee-table book,” Aston said to her daughter.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 07: attends The Society Of MSK's Winter Lunch at The Rainbow Room on February 07, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
Sea Star Beachwear’s Libby Fitzgerald and Lisa McCarthy

In her 35th year on the Society of MSK’s board, Aston said she was first tapped to take on the presidential role a decade ago, when her daughters were still tots. Knowing that she would dive into the deep end with complete devotion if she took what really is a full-time job, Aston said she is still returning emails at 1 a.m. “You do see this evolution of more women at work and being pulled in different directions. But the society is a very hands-on volunteer organization,” she said. “There’s a reason we’ve been around for 78 years. That’s because of the dedication and the fundraising on behalf of cancer research, patient care and cancer awareness.”

In her first term last year, $6.6 million was raised, covering the costs of iPads, cuddly toys, charging stations, a pediatric prom, Halloween party and more for patients, as well as scholarships for doctors’ own childcare expenses and seed funding for researchers. At Wednesday’s event, Dr. Marie Barnett helped launch a pediatric fundraising effort for the MSK Kids Wellness Initiative, which is dedicated to mental health.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 07: attends The Society Of MSK's Winter Lunch at The Rainbow Room on February 07, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Patrick McMullan/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
Jane Keltner de Valle and Meghan Klopp

Luxury brand consultant Klopp said that being involved with “all of these women, who have great taste and are definitely trendsetters,” is advantageous in her line of work. Post-pandemic companies want to be sure they are connecting with consumers. “They are trying to see how and where customers are shopping again, because habits have changed in the past three years,” Klopp said. “But people are going back to normalcy. Making sure that client relationship is strong ever is the most important thing with luxury retailers.”

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