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The Critter's Choice Awards


Minyanville's stated mission is to enhance human potential through financial understanding.


"Ray, people will come Ray. They'll come for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past."

Terence Mann, Field of Dreams

They say that anything worth accomplishing never comes easy. If that's true, Friday's Critter's Choice Awards was indeed a special accomplishment.

We birthed the concept for the CCA as an awards benefit that would bridge the worlds of finance, sports, music and entertainment to honor an individual for outstanding achievement in creative education.

It seemed simple enough--find a venue, identify a worthy recipient, chew through logistics and tap into networks. Bring it all together and you have the construct of a charitable platform that can change the face of philanthropy.

That was four years ago.

I understand that endeavors typically take a lot longer to pull together than originally anticipated. In the case of this particular fete, it's been a long, hard road that has taken steadfast determination, tenacity, focus and resolve. It seems that everyone and their sister has a worthy "cause" and The Ruby Peck Foundation has contributed to many of them.

But this was our event. This was our night.

At the end of September, after a midtown meeting, President Fish, our publicist Keleigh and I had some business to discuss. "Let's go to Country Restaurant," Keleigh said, "it's a new space with fantastic people and unbelievable food." When we walked upstairs to find a table, Kevin and I looked at each other and knew. It was classy, brilliant and full of great energy.

It was Ruby-esque.

Now, anyone who's thrown an event knows that two months is an extremely tight turnaround time. More importantly, our team had yet to identify the right person to honor. We didn't want to be gratuitous and pick someone who would simply sell tickets. We wanted this person to be worthy of receiving a trophy that bears my grandfather's good name.

One night in October, while sitting at dinner with my friend MJ, Trent Tucker called. I've known Trent for several years and, while he was always one of my favorite Knicks, I knew that his best accomplishments occurred away from the hardwood. Since retiring to Minnesota , Trent has raised over $1,000,000 for local charities and his Trent Tucker Youth Foundation, which helps sixth to eighth graders craft a vision for post-secondary education.

After discussing this with the RP Board of Directors, a decision was made. Trent was to be the recipient for the first annual "Ruby."

Fast forward to December 1st, 2007. The stage is set.

After an incredible afternoon of financial acumen--Keynotes from Jeff Saut, Steve Galbraith and two tremendous panels--we ventured upstairs to our awaiting venue. Now, given the weather and unusually hectic NYC traffic, some of our registrations missed the sold out afternoon content. In the back of my mind, I allowed myself a transient thought--what if the anticipated storms keeps Minyans away from the evening soiree?

2006-12-01 Minyan Michael Santoli guides the second MIM panel. © Allan Tannenbaum

As I walked from the conference to the main floor, that question faded quickly as I reminded myself of Ruby's famous words, "think positive." The room was, in a word, magical. The vintage Tiffany glass dome sparkled overhead, the casino tables were pristine, the silent auction was filled to the gills, the fantastic staff and our generous volunteers manned their posts and the Minyanville community was set to arrive.

2006-12-01 Jeff Saut readies to roll the dice before the masses arrive. © Allan Tannenbaum

To be sure, we were at the ready. Vanessa, with her typical MV Event thoroughness, had all the bases covered. The streets had been barricaded outside the entrance, food stations were full of fantastic fare, bartenders were at their post, registration was set up, speakers and sponsors enjoyed a VIP cocktail reception and me? I took the time to vibe with my gorgeous grandmother Dorothy, Ruby's wife of 59 years, who had traveled from Florida to share the experience.

2006-12-01 Toddo takes time to vibe with the margarita maven. © Allan Tannenbaum

And then it happened. The vision morphed into a reality and the room quickly filled.

2006-12-01 Trent Tucker, Emmanuelle Chriqui and Lionel Oyahon. © Allan Tannenbaum

2006-12-01 Toddo talks philanthropy with Minyan Mario Gabelli. © Allan Tannenbaum

2006-12-01 Ewing, Starks, Tucker, Harrison and Howard Cross. © Allan Tannenbaum

2006-12-01 Weldon, Vos and Sedacca feel the Minyan love. © Allan Tannenbaum

I've always said that trying to explain Minyanville to someone who hasn't seen it is like trying to explain the sunset to a blind man. Ergo, it's equally difficult to express the energy in that room. There had to be close to 300 people and it seemed that each of them wore a smile from ear to ear. The crowd seemed to "get it," why were were there, what we were doing and the benefits of human capital.

2006-12-01 Tina and Meghan flash their pearly whites. © Allan Tannenbaum

2006-12-01 John Starks takes the Texas Hold 'Em tourney. © Allan Tannenbaum

2006-12-01 The Pomboys flank Patrick Ewing. © Allan Tannenbaum

2006-12-01 Mario Gabelli and Trent Tucker catch up on old times. © Allan Tannenbaum

2006-12-01 Manganos and Meehans and Wassongs (oh my!). © Allan Tannenbaum

2006-12-01 Minyans in Manhattan. © Allan Tannenbaum

Before long, it was show time. As Minyans mingled and the magic manifested, I readied for the main event of the evening. We were there to celebrate Trent--a man who, in the Minyanville tradition, is very good at what he does but better at who he is. I went to retrieve the "Ruby" and, after #33 inspected the goods, I stepped on stage.

2006-12-01 Hoofy and Boo meet Patrick Ewing. © Allan Tannenbaum

After a brief speech that thanked our sponsors, introduced Ruby, discussed our charitable efforts to date and recognized why we were honoring Trent, I presented the award to our most deserving recipient.

2006-12-01 Minyan Michael Santoli leads the cheers. © Allan Tannenbaum

2006-12-01 The Ruby finds its way into the right hands. © Allan Tannenbaum

2006-12-01 Trent delivers a moving acceptance speech. © Allan Tannenbaum

After a thrilling live auction, it was time to kick off our shoes and cut some rug. Wendy Starland, an uber-talented songstress, took the stage and raised the roof. I didn't know Wendy before she performed but I'm certain Minyans will hear a lot from her in the future. She's sure to become a household name.

2006-12-01 Wendy Starland tops off the CCA. © Allan Tannenbaum

Minyans know that I tend to set the MV bar--and my internal expectations--higher than what most would consider attainable. The thought process is that, even if you come up somewhat short, you're still well above where you started. In the case of the first annual CCA, I think it's fair to say that we exceeded our lofty expectations. And while it was a team effort--from speakers to sponsors to staff--it would not have been possible without the tireless effort and energy of Vanessa Ohayon.

Thank you V.

On Saturday night, I joined Trent Tucker for a four hour sushifest. As we shared tales--his stories of the NBA, Michael Jordan and championship games were precious--he stopped to look me in the eye. "Todd," he said, "You know how much basketball means to me. I've been blessed with a long career and won two rings. Friday night, when you handed me that was the proudest moment of my life."


Minyanville's stated mission is to enhance human potential through financial understanding. Over the last five years, what began as a simple writing platform has morphed into a community that I am both humbled and proud to be a part of. Thank you all for continuing to believe in our vision and, above all else, choosing to be a part of it. A dream is only as powerful as those who believe in it and, without you, it would not be possible.

For that, and as we remember the important stuff, I offer you all the official Ruby "Wink."

Editor's Note: Click to read Todd's Keynote Speech from the Minyans in Manhattan Conference and his Critter's Choice Awards Speech.

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