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Robert Kennedy Jr. and wife Mary

Supporters See Victory
Ahead Over Scourge

Story and Photos by Tim Boxer

O surprise that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. served as dinner chair at last fall’s Food Allergy Ball at The Plaza in New York. He credits the Food Allergy Initiative for coming to the aid of his son Connor, 7. The organization is dedicated to research and treatment of food allergies. 

“Connor is allergic to nuts, soy and shellfish,” Kennedy said. “In his first three years he had 26 emergency room visits and six hospitalizations. He vomited every single day. But he never let those allergies slow him down. As a result he has a keen sense of compassion and empathy for others.”

FAI, headed by Sharyn Mann and Todd Slotkin, put Kennedy in touch with a doctor in Baltimore, Hugh Sampson, who saved Connor’s life. Sampson is now director of the Jaffe Institute of Food Allergy at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.

Sirio Maccioni of Le Cirque 2000 presented a Lifetime Achievement Award to fellow restaurateur Drew Nieporent of Nobu and Tribeca Grill.

“Three months ago I weight 335 pounds,” he declared. “I’ve slimmed down to 210.”

People ask how did he do it and he answers, “It’s not what you eat, it’s what you don’t eat.”

Ronald O. Perelman, chairman/CEO of MacAndrews and Forbes Holdings Inc., introduced the guest of honor, his colleague Howard Gittis.

Leba and Neil Sedaka

Gittis, vice chairman and chief administrative officer at MacAndrews and Forbes, revealed that his grandson Miles is also afflicted with a food allergy.

“We will stay committed,” he vowed. “We have to dedicate ourselves to rid the world of this scourge. You are here for the struggle – stick around for the victory ahead.”

Board chairman Todd Slotkin noted that there are more than seven million sufferers, most of whom are children.

The 600 guests at the dinner, which included Harry Belafonte, Neil Sedaka and wife Luba, and Dan Akroyd and wife Donna Dixon, raised $2.1 million towards the effort to find “a life-saving vaccine to prevent food allergies by 2010,” Slotkin announced.

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