Under a starry sky surrounded by snow, the second edition of the Aspen Snow Ball took place on Feb. 3 in the celeb-loved ski town. Hosted by the Ball’s founder Thomas Pierce, a film producer and philanthropist, the event was held at the newly renovated St. Regis Aspen Resort. With major contingents from Los Angeles and New York among the guests, people gathered to raise money for children with cancer and blood disorders at the Children’s Hospital Colorado, including TV personality Giuliana Rancic, the evening’s host, and the night’s honorees, fashion designer Rachel Zoe and lawyer-turned-real estate developer Tom Lewis.
“This is the most important thing that I do, working for women and children, and pediatric cancer is near and dear to my heart” said Zoe on the red carpet.
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Added Pierce, “Rachel has been a longtime advocate of Baby2Baby and the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles for many years, and her work is being acknowledged with the Impact Award for her philanthropy.”
Also in attendance was Scream actor Mason Gooding. “It’s an honor to be a part of such an important cause. Thomas [Pierce] is a heartfelt and conscientious man. There aren’t many events with causes that have statements like this to be made, especially for the betterment of mankind. The least I can do is show up,” Gooding told THR.
On the red carpet as well, real estate developer Mohammed Hadid (dad to Gigi and Bella Hadid) deferred comments to his girlfriend Keni Silva, a mother of a cancer survivor. “My daughter had a tumor and it was the same week that I met Thomas. I was told she was in stage two cancer, so I know what it’s like to have a sick child,” she shared.
To start off the evening — which was decorated with a “Through the Looking Glass” theme — Rancic welcomed everyone and spoke about the seriousness of cancer and how she herself is a 12-year survivor. “We’re not just here for a good time, we’re here to change the trajectory for children. An estimated 9,900 kids in the U.S., under the age of 15 will be diagnosed with cancer in 2024,” she said in her opening speech.
Rancic then called Pierce up to the stage, who thanked sponsors, and was almost brought to tears speaking about a friend who died and inspired him to start the COSF Foundation (Children’s Oncology Support Fund).
“In my early 20s, I lost my friend Pamela Johnston to cancer and I saw first-hand what it did to those who loved her,” he told THR before the gala started. “I was completely devastated and helpless. She left us too soon, and I needed an outlet to keep her name alive. I founded the COSF Foundation last year with the inaugural Aspen Snow Ball, whose mission is to support pioneering research and therapeutic programs that offer less harmful treatments and alternative therapies for children fighting cancer. This foundation has already been rewarding to give my friends and donors an outlet to make a difference. Children are 100 percent of our future and all children deserve the chance to thrive.”
But, what quieted the room and brought watery eyes was 18-year-old Sam Wilkerson, who was brought to the ball by Children’s Hospital Colorado. Last year, at the age of 17, she was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, but is now in remission.
“I was forced to face my own mortality at 17, when I found out I had cancer,” Wilkerson told THR before her speech. “It was one of the most horrible experiences I’ve ever had because no one expects cancer this young. I feel like I’m actually helping by being here. It’s incredible that the Children’s Hospital of Colorado gave me this opportunity as an ambassador, and I feel like I’m able to represent children and speak to adults because I’m 18. I’ve got no evidence of the disease as of the past eight months and it feels great.”
Later, Zoe’s two sons, Skyler and Kaius Berman, took to the stage and honored their mom, before she received the Philanthropic Impact Award. The younger, Kaius, started off by noting how proud he is of his mom for taking care of him, and the older, Skyler, shared his gratitude that she takes care not only of them, but also people who are suffering. Their father, Rodger Berman, then jokingly spoke on how he’s proud of his wife. Noting the number of boards she sits on and how she supports initiatives, he said, she’s often asked, ‘Rachel, how do you find the time to do it all?’ She really doesn’t have the time and that’s why I’m completely neglected,” he said — causing the audience to erupt in laughter.
Without a planned speech, Zoe noted how she spends time with cancer patients and how cancer has touched her own family, from her sister Pamela who is a cancer survivor, and who was in attendance, to their mom who is 25 years in remission.
The night also included a live auction (a Birkin bag, with a starting bid of $20k, went for $51k) and performances by Swedish singer and songwriter Tove Lo and Nile Rodgers & Chic plus a surprise performance by Mojave Grey. Guests then moved to another venue for the gala afterparty, where Canadian music producer and DJ Blond:ish, as well as Kid Kamillion and Dirty Harry performed into the early hours of the morning.
A six-day series of programming led up to the ball, with events including a Wellness Innovation Lab hosted by the Celia Group, a champagne spraying party at Aspenx Mountain Club sponsored by Lugano Diamonds and an Aprés Ski Soirée and private dinner sponsored by Balmain and featuring a custom DJ booth built by Los Angeles artist Anthony James.
“We received amazing feedback from the donors and all the attendees,” Pierce said. “Nothing like this existed in Aspen that boasts a prestigious and generous community.”
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