The 2009 Minyanville Festivus to Benefit Children's Education
Hundreds of Minyans gathered for good food, good fun, and a great cause
"Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday. Who could hang a name on you? When you change with every new day, still I'm gonna miss you."
- Rolling Stones
I've learned many things over the course my life; some were rewarding experiences and others were necessary lessons.
When I launched The Ruby Peck Foundation for Children's Education, the premise was simple enough; I wanted to honor my grandfather, the man who taught me how to be a man.
Through the years, the Minyanville community helped shape that mission; our philanthropic efforts were an extension of people who believed it's possible to be good at what you do and better at who you are.
We helped rebuild libraries on the Gulf Coast following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
We distributed musical instruments to inner-city children in an effort to channel their talents through a positive release.
There were after-school programs, welfare agencies, art programs, gene-therapy research efforts, memorial scholarships, tutorial programs and mentoring initiatives. While the vehicles varied, the mission was constant: to effect positive change for the leaders, dreamers and visionaries of tomorrow.
Our first charity event was The Critter's Choice Awards, a stunning affair with a magical touch; one that brought a dream to life and established a precedent for forthcoming annual efforts.
That energy was harnessed into Festivus in 2007 and again in 2008. We chose Hill Country BBQ as a venue for a variety of reasons. The staff was phenomenal, the space perfect and the food absolutely delicious; as we weighed a locale for 2009, the three-peat was an absolute no-brainer.
Gratitude is latitude and I'm blessed for the opportunity to do what I love with people I respect while serving the greater good. That's not a sound bite or marketing scheme; it's a mindfulness that sustains steadfast humility and appreciation.
As Yahoo Finance finished filming a series of interviews with Minyanville's human capital, I stepped back and took a deep breath. "Here we go," I thought to myself as our staff tended to last minute details, "Let's punch this doggie and hit it hard."
500 guests were expected and that wasn't lost on me. An A.D.D. person in a sensory overload environment is like a moth in a light bulb factory. I pledged that I would attempt to enjoy the journey, a small detail that would separate my oft-spoken words from the depths of hypocrisy.
In the blink of an eye, the top floor filled; I peeked downstairs and saw that it too was packed. Charlie Mangano asked me to deliver the welcome speech so he could unleash the first of our four bands and the kitchen full of food. I edged my way upstairs, taking time to absorb every hug and each handshake.
Given the effort necessary to organize the event-not to mention the daily travails of business development, content creation, trading the tape and our impending office move-I wanted to express my sincere appreciation to those who tirelessly gave themselves to bring this vision to life.
Jill Jacinto was at the top of the list as she again made an enormous task look unbelievably easy. Minyanville President Kevin Wassong was next, as was the entire Minyanville team, our tremendous professors, our excellent partners and every single person in the room. A dream is only as powerful as those who believe in it and without them, there would be no us.
I thanked our sponsors: Atlantic Advisors, BTIG and Hill Country Asset Management. It's been a tough year for many and our philanthropic efforts were not immune. We didn't have as many big-ticket sponsors as in years passed and wanted to step back and pay homage.
I touched on a few points of particular interest, honoring my "brother" Pete Moses for 40 years of service to The Children's Aid Society. I thanked Bobby Sager, author of The Power of the Invisible Sun, for attending the event. I drew attention to Allan Tannenbaum, the brilliant photographer who has yet to miss a Minyanville event.
I paused, for that was the easy part. I knew what came next and while I had rehearsed the words a few times in my mind's eye, it was entirely different to pay tribute to a fallen friend as his family stood a few feet away.
Pebbles in the Pond
Bennet Sedacca. Many knew him for his wickedly wise financial insight but not many knew the man himself. He was a good friend, a great mind, a wonderful dad and a loving husband. My grandfather taught me money comes and goes but there is indeed a difference between loss and loss.
When he tragically passed in March, I flew to Orlando to do what I could to help his family and firm. His wife Nancy told me that Michael and Katie, their two children, requested that The Ruby Peck Foundation for Children's Education be the official beneficiary for those who wanted to honor his memory.
We didn't know how we would allocate the funds; there were more pressing matters at hand. "Focus on the important stuff," I said at the time, "this will be a catharsis for you and the kids when the shock begins to fade." Minyans around the world-many of whom sidestepped the financial crisis thanks to Bennet-stepped up to support the effort.
On Friday night, we announced The Bennet Sedacca Memorial Scholarship at Rutgers University. As we took a moment to remember Bennet and others we've loved and lost-Ruby, Cal, Chander, Leonore, Mark-their legacies were brought full circle as we connected their past with the fortunes of future generations.
In an age when giving back all too often gives way to getting ahead, it was a tender moment of reflection. There's no shame in admitting our journey isn't as easy as it may have once been. In that moment, however, we were united as one; a community with the common bond of loving benevolence.
Let's Get Visual, Visual! (All photos © Allan Tannenbaum)
President Kevin Wassong holds court.
Eggers, Eggers everywhere!
Adam Katz and Kevin Wassong get schooled at blackjack (again).
Toddo flanked by Kenny G and Papa Doc.
A fantastic five!
Running Down a Dream with The Petty Thieves
No seriously -- SMILE!
Nothing but love...
Jill Jacinto pulls a lucky ticket.
President Fish rocks it hard.
Sarah Potts (center) welcomes the crowd.
Giving it up for Katie Sedacca.
President Fish and his rosy palms.
Jill flashes a well-deserved smile!
Ladies and gentlemen, the Woo Woo Girls!
Sedaccas and Goldenbergs and Harrisons, Oh My!
Yes, that's a camera!
Tom Eggers, the Rohrlichs and Mama Harrison soak in the scene.
Tami Wassong and Charlie Mangano share a smile.
Snaps to Pete Moses after 40 years at the helm of Children's Aid.
Nancy and Katie Sedacca share a tender moment.
We remember and reflect, arm in arm.
Minyans mingle en masse.
Charlie Mangano and Mr. and Mrs. Chris Dixon
The genesis of Minyanville was forged before we knew what it was or where it would live. It was born from letters written to my grandfather that we read to him as he struggled for his life, and created a common bond of benevolence that continues to this day.
As we struggle to digest the world we live in and understand the implications for future generations, we must remember that society is simply a sum of its parts. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction and you never know how far a positive pebble will ripple in the proverbial pond of life.
As we enter 2010, we'll ask that you make a conscious effort to be good to others and better to yourself. A wise man once said that this too shall pass and it most certainly will. The goal, at least from where I sit, is to make each day count and have few, if any, regrets.
We all have goals and aspirations; that's what makes us tick and motivates us to get out of bed each morning. It's often easy to forget that by the time we get to where we want to be, the journey will have already ended.
Thank you all-our sponsors, our staff, our partners and ye faithful -- for making Festivus 2009 a smashing success. If you would like to contribute to our cause and help affect positive change -- please know it's not too late, every little bit helps and we would most certainly appreciate it with a Ruby wink. ;)
May peace be with you.
Todd Harrison is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Minyanville. Prior to his current role, Mr. Harrison was President and head trader at a $400 million dollar New York-based hedge fund. Todd welcomes your comments and/or feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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