The Order of St. John of Jerusalem Knights Hospitaller Commandery of New York hosted its 2014 Autumn Gala at the Yale Club on November 21, 2014. Chaired by Dame Diana Frankel and a committee that included Dame Peggy Donovan, Chevalier JJ Doran, Dame Judith Gates, Dame Candace Gonzalez and Dame Barbara Gross, the event honored the work of the Guide Dog Foundation with proceeds going to provide guide dogs and training to people who are blind or visually impaired.
Many of the Order’s Dames and Chevaliers in their ceremonial robes welcomed guests to the Grand Ballroom, an elegant haven in the heart of Midtown, as guests proceeded in for cocktails and a chance to play with the young pups that would soon enter the training program before being placed with a visually impaired new owner. Representatives from the Foundation explained the training program and how it helped those in need lead a more normal life with a trusted canine companion.
Over dinner, Grand Councillor Vincent Bonagura welcomed the guests and H.E. Prior Ann Van Ness officially greeted all before a blessing by Reverend Stephen Fichter. Celeste V. Lopez, Esq. speaking on behalf of the Guide Dog Foundation introduced several recipients of guide dogs, whose lives had been literally changed overnight with the help of the guide dogs.
Following dinner, Amy Epstein conducted the live auction of extraordinary luxury items and trips including a diamond solitaire ring, a luxurious trip to Turkey, a week’s stay for up to eight guests at an historic 18th Century Loire Valley Chateau courtesy of H.E. Prior Ann Van Ness and Chevalier Bill Van Ness; an original oil painting by Ron Burns; a week at the Manoir Des Anges in Southwest France wine country compliments of Dame Leah Conetta, DGSJ & Joseph Conetta, a trip to Belgium compliments of Brussels Airlines; a 12 Night Holiday in Central Europe including stays at fashionable hotels in Vienna, Prague and Salzburg, and a unique opportunity to name a guide dog! Ms. Epstein did a smashing job in raising funds for this wonderful organization – and speedily so that guests could take to the dance floor.
The Order of St. John of Jerusalem Knights Hospitaller is among the oldest orders of chivalry in existence. It descends directly from the Crusaders. The Order of St. John of Jerusalem remains faithful to ideas of the free world and to human rights as defined by the universal declaration of the United Nations. The Order is an ecumenical volunteer organization whose mission is Pro Fide, Pro Utilitate Hominum: For Faith and Service to Humanity. For over a thousand years, members of the Order have served the needy all over the world. Current members are all exemplary leaders who come from corporate, legal, medical, and faith-based communities.