A Taste For Charity

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Hicksville-based organization holds fundraiser

When someone mentions something that resonates strongly with them, they usually state that it “touches their heart.” The idea of “touching the heart” is something that strikes a nerve within a person. The resonance can be felt mildly, as in the case of receiving a heart emoji in a text, or strongly, as in the case of something that can inspire us to become passionate and live a meaningful life.

Touching the heart is something that both Terrie and Paul Magro have been able to accomplish since January 2005, when they started The Michael Magro Foundation (MMF), a Hicksville-based, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that was established to honor the life of Michael, their older son, who lost his battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia just eight short weeks after his diagnosis. Through various fundraisers, including basketball, volleyball, golf and soccer events, the organization has been able to raise more than $1.7 million to date. The mission of the foundation is to improve the lives of children with cancer, pediatric cancer survivors and their families, as well as patients with other chronic pediatric illnesses. Because of their ongoing passion, Terrie and Paul have touched the hearts of thousands.

Fourteen years ago, Chef Paul Magro began to talk to a few of his friends in the industry about putting together a banner event for the foundation, which could bring members of the restaurant community together. Fast forward to 2018, when the Michael Magro Foundation celebrated its greatest success, the 14th annual An Evening of Tasting and Giving, which took place Oct. 1, at The Carltun at Eisenhower Park.

The tasting event, which is the foundation’s largest fundraiser of the year, featured more than 35 different restaurants and bakeries, as well as beer distributors and wineries. Participants were able to enjoy delicious samplings from restaurants such as TOA Asian Fusion, JEWEL Restaurant of Melville, Margarita’s Café, Acqua, Anchor Down and Market Bistro. The entire first floor of The Carltun was utilized, while each serving station included a scrumptious portion of specialties from around the globe.

Baskets were donated by many local businesses, which were raffled off during the evening. Live auctions featured a four-night stay at a timeshare in Turks and Caicos Islands, four mezzanine tickets to see Dear Evan Hansen and an overnight stay at the Marriott Courtyard in Times Square, worth more than $700, a one-week stay at a timeshare in Sedona, AZ, and a $1,000 gift card to Porter House NYC with round-trip limousine service. Chef Tom Schaudel of Jewel Restaurant emceed the live auction, which featured a bidding war over the steakhouse prize. Silent auction items included an autographed New York Giants Saquon Barkley jersey, a magnum of Castello Banfi 2012 and a video game-inspired TKO framed picture, which was autographed by Mike Tyson. All sports memorabilia was generously donated by Triple Crown Sports.

The energy was high as guests milled about the tables and chatted amicably with others. As the evening air was quite lovely, the patio doors were opened and guests filtered out onto the patio to enjoy the cool of the evening while they ate. Dining music was supplied by DJ Geoffrey Cohen of GEM Entertainment. Several guests mentioned that the event touched them personally, as many were cancer survivors themselves.

Newcomer Ryan Hiebendahl, vice-president of Sail Away Coffee, was excited to be a part of the foundation’s event.

“This event is a great way to support this amazing cause and to be a part of the restaurant community,” he said. Sail Away Coffee, which featured a smooth-as-silk nitrogen-infused cold brew on-tap, made their debut at the Evening of Tasting and Giving this year. Hiebendahl stated that he hopes to be a part of future events.

Also new this year was Kingfish, which is Chef Tom Schaudel’s newest restaurant in Westbury. Chocolate Works of Plainview, One North of Jericho and Uncle Giuseppe’s Marketplace were also newcomers to the fundraiser. Uncle Giuseppe’s was also a bronze sponsor for the event, with a donation of $1,000. Several corporations were included on the signboard in the lobby to be noted as either holding gold, silver or bronze sponsorship of the foundation. Jack’s Snack Shack, a food truck that is available for parties, was positioned at the exit of the Carltun, where patrons of the event were treated to a fresh bag of cotton candy at the end of the evening.

Pastry Chef Brian Fishman of Sweet Karma Desserts mentioned that he has been a part of the MMF event for about 10 years. Fishman was introduced to Terrie and Paul by David Bryer, owner of Beginnings Restaurant of Atlantic Beach.

“David is a friend of Paul’s,” Fishman explained. “He told me about the charity event and asked if I wanted to do it. I agreed immediately.”

After the first year, Fishman was hooked and couldn’t wait to return.

“The thing that touches my heart the most about this event is my love for Terrie and Paul. They’re really the salt of the earth. They gave so much to this community, and I knew I wanted to help,” he said. “This cause means a lot to me, because I’m a cancer survivor myself. I really would do anything for them.”

As an aside, Chef Brian appeared on Food Network’s Halloween Baking Championship and Halloween Cake Wars.

Schaudel, of Jewel Restaurant, self-professed “saute god,” mentioned that the event had special meaning to him.

“Paul has been a friend of mine for years. Fourteen years ago, he approached me with the idea of coordinating and getting chefs together for a fundraising event. It was such a success the first year that we continued to do it.”

Fourteen years strong, the event raised more than $176,000 this year, the most in a single event since the fundraiser’s inception. In total, more than 600 attendees were present to help support the Michael Magro Foundation.

Schaudel continued his praise of Paul and Terrie as he mentioned how inspired he was by their drive to help others. “Children touch my heart. You know, if I got cancer tomorrow, I could say that I lived my life. If a child is diagnosed with cancer, I would demand a recount. We need to give these kids a chance, we need to do all we can to help them.”

During the evening, Terrie Magro gave a speech to welcome this year’s special honoree, Domenick Cama, President and Chief Operating Officer of Investors Bank. A donation of $25,000 was presented to the Michael Magro Foundation by Cama, who stated, “Events like this really matter. Monies that are allocated for pediatric cancer are so limited, which is why events like this one are so important.”

Highlighting the evening were the event’s special musical guests, Carrie St. Louis of Kinky Boots and Tony LePage of Come from Away. St. Louis and LePage treated attendees to a beautiful duet and gave individual performances of Broadway tunes. They were accompanied by international pianist Philip Fischer and Dr. Louis Pannullo on the keyboard. As an aside, Pannullo choreographed and coordinated the appearance of both St. Louis and LePage and has provided musical talent for the event every year.

Terrie and Paul wished to thank all those who made the evening possible, from their faithful volunteers who set up from early that morning, to the attendees, restaurants, bakeries and the staff at the Carltun. The assistance received and the outpouring of love from the community has inspired them to be there for others. It’s all about the passion for the Magros, a passion that grows stronger and deeper with every passing year.

The New York Islanders invited the foundation to attend an afternoon game on Oct. 8, at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn. The game will support both the Michael Magro Foundation and Alex’s Lemonade Stand. In November, MMF will be represented at the NYC Marathon, where NYC Police Officer Chris Benedetto will run. Officer Benedetto’s cousin Chris is a patient at NYU Langone Winthrop’s Cancer Center, and Benedetto wanted to “help pay it forward” for the wonderful care that his cousin received during his treatment. All donations that Benedetto receives will be given to the Michael Magro Foundation, to help others at his bequest.

On Jan. 18, 2019, The Carltun at Eisenhower Park will host their Second Annual Food and Wine Fest, which will be sponsored by Pink Tie. A silent wine auction will be held, and all proceeds will be donated to the Michael Magro Foundation. Also in 2019, the MMF Golf Outing will be held on Thursday, June 6.

For more information and to view photos from this year’s fundraiser, visit www.michaelmagrofoundation.com. Next year’s An Evening of Tasting and Giving will be held on Oct. 7, 2019. It’s an event that’s certain to touch your heart.

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