Oh, what a night—even during a pandemic. In a first for both magazines, Empire Media Network’s Saratoga Living and Capital Region Living teamed up to host the second annual Capital Region Gives Back event, honoring 10 local heroes, representing 10 charities/nonprofits. The honorees included: Patti Veitch (Gateway House of Peace), Denise Dubois (American Cancer Society of the Capital Region), Rachel Hye Youn Rupright (Capital Roots), Kristen Garzone (Every Mother Counts), Dominick Purnomo (Feed Albany), Heather Straughter (Jake’s Help From Heaven), Ramón Domínguez (New York Race Track Chaplaincy of America), Martel Catalano (Beyond My Battle), Lawrence Edelson (Opera Saratoga) and Allison Meyers (Saratoga Regional YMCA).
The event was a first of its kind for the brands as well, with a hybrid virtual-live format, featuring COVID-safe, limited entry in-person parties held at Saratoga Springs’ Putnam Place and the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame and Albany’s 677 Prime. Dozens of ticket-holders, among them, many of the night’s honorees, tuned in live from the comfort of their own homes via YouTube.
In all, the event raised more than $15,000, half of which will go directly to the 10 charities represented by the honorees (Empire Media Network matched the other half).
The night’s festivities kicked off with an introduction by Empire Media Network CEO Abby Tegnelia, who then handed over the reins to CBS 6 anchor Heather Kovar, who served as the night’s emcee. Throughout the night, live guests and virtual viewers were introduced to each of the honorees via videos, shot exclusively for the occasion at Universal Preservation Hall; fun trivia questions about each honoree; and live check-ins with each honoree from their respective perch.
Also, interspersed with the lively chatter and informational videos on each honoree were exclusive, pre-recorded mini-concerts by musicians with local ties, including Saratoga’s Garland Nelson, Troy’s The Sea The Sea, Averill Park–by-way-of-Cambridge-England’s Annie Dressner, Saratoga’s Angelina Valente, Saratoga’s Warden and Co. and soprano Kelly Glyptis of Opera Saratoga).
Guests at Putnam Place were treated to dinner catered by 30 Lake, with spirits from Albany Distilling Co. and wine from Purdy’s and dessert from Darling Doughnuts; and those at 677 Prime dined on the restaurant’s delicious light fare and wine. At the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, guests screened the museum’s new signature film, What it Takes, before the event began, and afterwards, honoree Ramón Domínguez invited attendees to join him for a free glass of wine at Mama Mia’s. The evening also included a virtual silent auction, featuring items donated by everyone from former Friends Executive Producer and Director Kevin Bright (brother-in-law of honoree Veitch) and Cooperstown’s Otesaga Hotel to Saratoga’s Bread Basket Bakery and One With Life Tequila.
For the past month or so, the honorees have been in a friendly competition to sell the most tickets to the Capital Region Gives Back event and in turn, to raise the most money for their respective organizations. Near the end of the evening, Heather Kovar announced the honoree who had raised the most funds for his or her organization: Allison Meyers, who brought in more than $3,000 for the Saratoga Regional YMCA. For her efforts, she received a gift of a three-night stay at Lake Placid’s Mirror Lake Inn.
Closing remarks were made by Empire Media Network Chair Anthony Ianniello, who emphasized the need for the community to come together during this time of need—and to give back as much as possible.