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enCourage Kids 34th Annual Celebrity Gala Honoring Top Executives In Real Estate

Double G Sports had the pleasure of covering and attending the 34th Annual Celebrity Gala.  The Gala took place on Thursday night at the Marquis Marriott in Times Square, and the reasons for the Gala were to both honor Real Estate executives Kevin Donner and Jason Hernandez and more importantly to raise money and awareness for enCourage Kids.

For those who aren’t familiar with enCourage Kids Foundation, it has has helped humanize healthcare for children and their families by resourcing impact—driven pediatric programs and supporting the Child Life Community. Serving more than 400,000 children annually, their programs offer relief from the constant burden of treatment, hospital stays and doctor appointments, while also helping pediatric facilities to meet the unique needs of their patients. enCourage Kids Foundation envisions a world where every child—regardless of the difficulty of his or her medical journey—experiences joy, hope, resilience and healing.

Thanks to the incredible work of MJ Pedone, whose PR firm Indra Public Relations also set up the event, we were able to gain special access to chat with the President and CEO of enCourage Kids, Michele Hall-Duncan.  Hall-Duncan is an incredible role model for all young women who aspire to run a company one day.

On her path to enCourage Kids

Well I grew up in Flint, Michigan and from a very young age I learned how to be responsible and accountable for all my actions.  I had a great childhood and had the privilege of attending Michigan State University.  I graduated with a degree in Advertising and started volunteering at enCourage in 1996.

From there I worked my way up and now here I am!  It’s been an incredible journey over the past 23 years and our hope is that this event tonight brings an even bigger outreach to kids and their families who could benefit from our foundation.  EnCourage Kids is a way to bring some joy and relief to the families and make it a better experience for the kids.  We have clowns, camps, all kinds of activities to keep our kids active and with a positive attitude.

On her role models growing up

Well I have to say my first role model is my Aunt Jackie.  She’s always been a very strong influence on my life and my drive.  She was a hard working woman and continues to inspire me every day I’m at enCourage.  She’s a positive role model in general.

Some other ones are Michelle Obama and one of my teachers, Ms. Fletcher.  Michelle and I come from similar backgrounds, growing up in the Midwest, and seeing what she’s been able to do and how she has scratched and clawed to get to that point is inspiring.  It reminds me a lot of my own journey.  As for Ms. Fletcher, I feel teachers sometimes don’t get enough credit.  I always remember her smell, her warmth, and the way she taught us.  She was a very successful teacher, married a doctor, and even though she may not know it she had such a big influence on me.

We were also able to interview some of the celebrities on the red carpet at the event.  These included former Jet legend Erik Coleman, his wife Sabrina (a native Long Islander), former Giant great Howard Cross, and former professional boxer and heavyweight contender Monte Barrett.

Erik Coleman, on the pressures of playing in New York

I have to say it was a great experience playing in New York.  I loved every second of it.  Probably the biggest thing wasn’t even the media, it was the fans.  You know when you play for a small market team a lot of them won’t be as critical because they listen a lot to what the analysts say and don’t get on you too much.

When you’re in New York, the fans are so involved and so informed on what’s going on that every thing you do wrong they know immediately.  They have a passion for the game that I haven’t seen and they’ll let you know about it.

Sabrina Coleman, on advice for young women aspiring to success

I grew up one of five in an Italian-American household.  My family had a restaurant and from when I can remember I was involved.  I had a great family and growing up on Long Island those values were instilled in you.

I would have to say, especially being at this event tonight, that anything is possible as long as you put your mind to it.  Reach for the stars, try to make as big an impact as you can.  Stay humble, be diligent, and always see the light at the end of the tunnel.  You can do whatever you set your mind to.

Howard Cross, on how the Giants look after trading Odell Beckham Jr.

It’s hard to say because OBJ was such a big part of the offense.  Obviously the defense needs some work, but the Giants don’t have that dynamic receiver right now.  It puts a lot of pressure on Eli and Saquon to get the job done.  Saquon is an unbelievable talent, but there might be some added defensive players stacking the box to slow him down.

It’s tough losing OBJ and I understand you got help on the defensive end, but he’s such a dynamic player.  Not having him on the offense is going to be hard to compensate for now that he’s no longer on the team.

Monte Barrett, on why he aligned with enCourage Kids

Anything with kids man is where I want to be.  I have seven children of my own and I can’t imagine how much of a grind it would be if one of my children were in a hospital.  It’s tough but it’s great to see a foundation like enCourage Kids can help so many families that are dealing with these issues every day.

 

The highlight of the night was a speech by one of enCourage Kids’ own beneficiaries, Ketrina Hazell, who was New York’s Ms. Wheelchair 2018.  Hazell has been part of the enCourage Kids program for years and has cerebral palsy.  It’s inspiring to see that none of the obstacles in her life have broken her spirit.

Hazell spoke about how at nine months old doctors told her parents that she would never be able to walk, see, talk, or do anything on her own.  She made remarkable strides as a child and even though she had to go through additional surgeries, including one to correct a hole in her spine, here she is today as Ms. Wheelchair.

She thanks enCourage Kids for always keeping her positive and involved, including a trip to Camp Pontiac with other children afflicted with cerebral palsy.  She felt at home there and the experience of enCourage Kids has kept her pushing.  She graduated high school and is currently in college.

Overall it was a great night for enCourage Kids.  The foundation does so much for both children and families of those children who in and out of hospitals.  The night was a success and was sponsored by a foundation for a great cause.  If you or anyone you know are in need of help, make sure to visit https://encourage-kids.org/.

 

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