On Saturday, June 17, more than 450 guests joined Hetrick-Martin Institute (HMI) for School’s Out, HMI’s annual summer Hamptons benefit, which was held for the third consecutive year at the East Hampton home of interior design Galerie Magazine Founder and Editorial Director Lisa Cohen and husband James Cohen, President and CEO of Hudson News.
“When I visited the HMI Harvey Milk School, my heart was so extended for these kids and the work that HMI is doing for these kids – they are literally saving lives, making fruitful lives out of lives that are really in danger,” Lisa Cohen shared. “It’s a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful organization.”
The evening, which raised over $325,000, began with a cocktail party with signature cocktails by mixologist Leo Robitschek, the creative genius behind Eleven Madison Park’s bar program. Honorary co-hosts Tracy Anderson and Margaret Russell served as cocktail party hosts, with Co-chairs Ward Williams, VP Creative Director at Publicis New York; interior designer Malcolm James Kutner; and Benjamin Dixon of Douglas Elliman Real Estate.
“What matters to me is I’ve spent nearly 20 years of my life helping people feel like they can break free and be comfortable in their own bodies, whatever that looks like. I’ve spent 18 years giving interviews where I’m like, ‘Please say you don’t want Jennifer Lopez’s butt or Gwyneth Paltrow’s legs, because what about yours?'” Anderson told Hamptons.com. “And if I can get to teens before they get diseased with such harsh self-judgment that they live a life of misery I want to get there. And every single person has the right to love whoever the fuck they want to.”
While Anderson’s chic outfit for the event, a beautiful multicolored dress that had “love” painted on it, might have just looked like another gorgeous gown, the reasoning behind her outfit choice was actually quite significant. “My son who’s 18 made my dress with his girlfriend, Ava, who is a stylist at LF in the Hamptons,” Anderson noted. “They made the dress for me because they were like, ‘Every teen out there that is trans or gay or bisexual needs to be able to be whatever is their truth.'”
HMI alumni Jasmine Perez, who learned about HMI during the 90s from a 411 operator, was among speakers.
“I was nervous. I was scared. I knew I needed to explore myself, but I was very scared because my whole life everyone kept telling me that I shouldn’t be who I am. No. No. No. I can’t transition – I can’t be who I am,” Perez told the crowd. “So finally when I went to HMI, the adults, the counselors, the staff there, were extremely supporting and accepting. The kids at the drop in space were just so free being who they were that at that time, I was 13, 14-years-old – I was not ready for that. So I quickly ran back home.”
Perez and her family moved to Puerto Rico soon after that, however, after realizing Puerto Rico just wasn’t for her, Perez found herself back in New York.
“That’s when I was on my own. I was 15. I didn’t have a mom, I didn’t have a dad to tell me what to do, where to go, how to be. So this time I was definitely ready. I went to Hetrick Martin at 15-years-old, again, and I was ready to explore who I was, and if it wasn’t for HMI being there for me I wouldn’t have found the group home that I lived at at the time, Green Chimneys, and I wouldn’t have been able to continue my education and graduate from high school,” she explained. “I went on to Syracuse University and Fordham University where I graduated with Masters in Social Work. So nowadays I work at Community Healthcare Network and I meet with a lot of young LGBT kids and whenever they share their story to me there’s some good transference here and I am able to connect them with the services that HMI once provided to me, because if it wasn’t for HMI, I don’t know if I would have gotten here.”
HMI Chief Executive Officer Thomas Krever spoke about some of the everyday struggles HMI youth deal with. “Whether it is finding a job or graduating high school or taking a hot shower or finding clothing, doing laundry for the first time, wondering what college you’re going to go to, wondering who you can meet, whose hand can you hold – those are the things we take so for granted, so many of us,” Krever told the crowd. “But not the people under this tent. Not you, because you get it. Whether you’ve experienced it personally, or whether you’ve experienced it as an ally, you know the challenges, the pain, and the suffering that our young people are facing every single day.”
The annual Hamptons benefit raises vital funds for HMI. “School’s Out actually helps us launch our summer program because during the summer that’s when structures go away. School is closed, yay!, but for many young people that’s the only meal they got that day, or the only place they saw a mental health clinician. This event, your generosity, makes sure that we can sustain ourselves through those hot months,” he said. “A lot of the work that we’re doing is now focusing nationally, if not internationally, I don’t think it’s a secret that our agenda has altered considerably over the last several months, and so places or institutions we enjoyed that we thought we had or became safer in are suddenly unraveling and tens of thousands of young people are wondering everything from where am I going to sleep tonight? To which bathroom they are safe to use. So we need to prevent and halt what’s happening and through events like these and the work that HMI does every day that we can be an answer or remedy that is plaguing this nation.”
Following the cocktail party, Martha Stewart and Rosanna Scotto co-hosted an intimate dinner for 85 that featured paella and summer favorites of Stewart.
If you happened to miss School’s Out, you can still support HMI by shopping at Tenet (51 Newtown Lane, East Hampton) who will be donating 10 percent of purchases from Sunday, June 18 through Saturday, July 1 to HMI. Additionally, Tracy Anderson is hosting a workout class designed for youth on Saturday, July 1 from 3 to 5 p.m., with all proceeds benefiting HMI. To sign up for the class, visit hmi.org.
For more information, visit www.hmi.org.