Sublime Tea Time


Haute Tea honoree Jillian Posner standing between co-chairs Lauren Geduld and Stacy Gibb

A writer is always searching for an angle. What’s the hook to make a story special? How does one capture the uniqueness of the message? Where the Diabetes Research Institute Foundation is concerned, the focus is clear and the message is a strong and determined one.

The scientists will make progress, will provide hope, will find innovative methods to treat patients, and they certainly will not rest until Type 1 diabetes is forced to release its stranglehold on its victims.

There is a collective goal, a forceful passion to help the afflicted with Type 1 diabetes to live their lives without fear but with hope for a cure.

Whenever I attend a DRIF event, a physical and emotional change occurs that is difficult to explain. The energy of the staff is contagious. Raising funds for research is a given, but the way they go abut raising the funds is what makes them rise above and set the bar so high.


Barbara Singer, retiring founder of DRIF

Although juggling multiple responsibilities, each employee is gracious and professional, providing the perfect balance as a team to help the event succeed. This year Barbara Singer will retire. She is the matriarch, the founder of the DRIF, and the inspiration for everyone who works with the organization. She is a dynamo and a lovely, giving woman who has worked since the 70’s fighting against diabetes. It was an honor to be in her presence.


Lauren, Aimee and Joelle-talented staff members working early before Haute Tea

The attendees of the Haute Tea (and indeed all other events)  feel so good about where their donations are going because everyone working towards the common goal has such passion and drive. They walk the walk, and supporters are happy to walk with them.

I was happy and excited to be at the Haute Tea on September 8, giddy because the concept of this fundraiser hits a happy nerve. No doubt each woman attending felt the same.

Playing dress-up and wearing a fancy and flattering hat (sadly a lost art) is simply fun. It’s a feast for the eyes to see the creations on display. Watching women balance in sky high stilettos and taking in the variety of dress, from costumes to couture, gives me a good feeling. Even more fun is that there are prizes given for outstanding attire, so there’s anticipation about who will win.


Don’t forget to pick up your table place card!

The ladies clearly enjoy every second of the day, starting with the formal photo op in the outer ballroom area, then walking in to be greeted by waiters with trays of champagne and tasty hors d’oeuvres. I thought the concept of hors d’oeuvres was that they were a snack before the meal, but these were a meal in themselves. Decadent!


checking out auction items

The environment of the St. Regis Bal Harbour ballroom is elegant but manages to feel cozy and welcoming. It may be the plush carpeting, the soft colors of the table settings and the polished look and kind demeanor of the waitstaff.


Waitstaff getting last-minute instructions before the Haute Tea

I personally love watching the ladies walk around with their champagne glasses assessing the fabulous silent auction items and bidding on them as they admire each other’s attire. They chatter and laugh, pose for selfies and bubble with enthusiasm for the fashion show (this year produced by Neiman Marcus) and elegant, elegant, elegant.


Silent auction gift basket

Artist Sara Kaplan was creating one-of-a-kind paintings for the ladies who took the opportunity to utilize her talents. Such a great idea, DRIF!


Artist Sara Kaplan


Some of Sara’s art work

I don’t know about anyone else, but dipping giant strawberries into fresh whipped cream and nibbling light blueberry scones while watching models showcase dream clothes sent my endorphins to the sky.

The live auction included trips and hotel packages, and there were smiles all around as squeals of delight came from the winners’ tables. Somehow, everyone feels great about cheering on those lucky girls even though they’re not the recipients. The DRIF is the real winner, and we all feel happy about that.


Silent auction items showcased beneath the DRI sign

The most poignant moments of this day occurred when Lisa Grace shared the story of what she and her family experience as they help their now six-year-old son Jax, who lives with Type 1 diabetes. The ballroom was silent and attentive as Lisa recounted her baby’s diagnosis and the emotional journey the family has been taking for five years. This disease affects everyone in a patient’s family and obviously presents challenges and stressors that sometimes take a costly toll.

Reminding us all of why we were there, human emotions of pathos surfaced and I’d venture to say that each person in the ballroom was proud to have paid for her ticket so that families like Lisa’s could be helped. Confirmation of doing the right thing is nice, but spreading awareness of the need to continue the fight with more funds is key to the success of this organization.

On this day Jillian Posner was honored for her work with the DRIF. A four-time Chairwoman of the Haute Tea, I have interviewed Jillian before. There’s not a person involved with the DRIF who is more sincere or hardworking. She is truly dedicated and genuine, and I was thrilled to see her receive recognition.


Therese Gibb with two of the lucky ladies in attendance

I chatted with many of the ladies; some had flown cross-country to attend. Many save a bit each month throughout the year to buy their tickets. It’s gratifying to see grandmothers with their daughters and granddaughters come together to enjoy the day. 

I observed as the attendees picked up their gift bags (cosmetics from European Wax Center!) and framed photos on the way out of the ballroom. There’s almost a feeling of regret that permeates the air, the regret that the tea is over and this fantasy-like time is coming to an end.



Photo memento-Gibb girls

The bottom line is that this luncheon was another DRIF success. Chairwomen Stacy Gibb and Lauren Geduld and their committee hit the mark and exceeded expectations.

My one disappointment was that Dr. Ricordi wasn’t in attendance, and I didn’t get a chance to discuss the latest research and see that ebullient smile of his. So where was the Director of the DRI and Cell Transplant Program? He was hard at work spreading news about the BioHub and the latest trials as a guest on the Bonnie Sher Show. Bonnie herself has been a victim of Type 1 diabetes since she was 15. Radio audiences far and wide heard from Dr. Ricordi personally about the advances being made. I truly believe he is a dynamic leader and a blessing to all.

This writer feels positive that the DRIF will succeed and prosper in the future. The heart and soul of success comes from the people who dedicate their lives through honest work. Make no mistake and don’t be deluded. Fighting diabetes is WORK!  Together the scientists, staff and volunteers will make it happen. Getting caught in the vortex which is the DRIF, diabetes doesn’t have a chance.

About morobinbarrystories

Anne Jakowenko, the blog author, has been loving the Bee Gees for decades while raising her sons and teaching college students Speech Communication and English skills at her alma mater, Syracuse University, where she received her Master’s degree. She has also taught for SUNY Oswego and Barry University. Currently, Anne is teaching for the State College of Florida while she continues to collect stories for her book, My Life with the Boys.
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2 Responses to Sublime Tea Time

  1. Randi L. Fishman says:

    Thank you, for sharing this meaningful and heartfelt event. The charity work is a blessing that continues to help those afflicted with this very dangerous and debilitating disease.A beautiful tea and your descriptions made me feel as if o had been there.

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