Celebrating the best gift of all

WAG closes out a year of celebration with the greatest gift of all – the gift of service to others.

In these pages, you’ll find 12 luminaries with connections to WAG country who spotlight the breadth of that gift. For some, service to others has in part grown out of a challenging personal experience. Such is the case of actress Glenn Close, who founded Bring Change 2 Mind in response to mental health issues within her own family. For others, service is born of a professional passion, as in former New York Yankee Mark Teixeira’s work with Harlem RBI, which uses baseball as a way into the lives of disadvantaged youth. Still others have seen service dovetail with a spiritual quest as with Richard Gere, whose commitment to Buddhism has led to activism on behalf of Tibet and in India.

Celebrities, of course, have the money, fame and other resources to create foundations and command dollars and attention. Most of us will never be a Paul Newman or an Elizabeth Taylor, who turned a devotion to children with cancer and AIDS research, respectively, into brilliant second acts. (Some might say their movie stardom was but a springboard to their real life’s work.)

But as Edmund Burke, the great 18th-century, Irish-born member of the British Parliament, observed: “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.” Last month, Elizabeth Hurley — spokesmodel for the Estée Lauder Companies’ Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign — told a group gathered for brunch at Bloomingdale’s White Plains that you might make a meal for someone in need. Or just be with that person.

Precisely. Sometimes service is a cupcake or a T-shirt. (See our entry on actress and lifestyle goddess Blake Lively.) But always it benefits us as much as others.

“Selflessness and joy are intertwined,” His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Arthur C. Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, wrote in a Nov. 4 New York Times op-ed piece. “The more we are one with the rest of humanity, the better we feel.”

Or as Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore wrote, “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”

ROBERT P. ASTORINO

Accomplishments: Westchester County Executive, serving his second four-year term. He was founding executive producer of 1050 AM ESPN Radio in New York City and a host on the MSG Network.

Local ties: Astorino lives in Mount Pleasant.

Charities of choice: Catholic Youth Organization. “I am active as a parent and a coach. It’s an opportunity to be a positive influence on young people as they learn about winning, losing and how to be a good teammate in both cases.”

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MARK BEZOS

Accomplishments: A customer experience professional, Bezos was the founder of the Bezos Nathanson Marketing Group. 

Local ties: He lives in Scarsdale.

Causes of choice: Bezos is a director of the Bezos Family Foundation, which works to increase early education, strengthen the public school system and encourage young leaders. He’s also a member of the Leadership Council of the Robin Hood foundation, dedicated to ending poverty in New York City; a member of the board of directors of iMentor, matching high school students with college-educated mentors; and a captain with the Scarsdale Volunteer Fire Department.

For more, visit bezosfamilyfoundation.org.

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GLENN CLOSE

Accomplishments: Emmy, Golden Globe and Tony Award-winning star of stage (“Sunset Boulevard,” returning to Broadway Feb. 2) and screens big and small (“Fatal Attraction,” “Sarah, Plain and Tall”)

Local ties: Born and raised in Greenwich, Close now lives in Bedford Hills.

Causes of choice: In 2010, Close and her family founded Bring Change 2 Mind, to end the stigma associated with mental illness. She is chairman of the conservation council for Panthera, dedicated to the preservation of the world’s big cats (April WAG); a supporter of Puppies Behind Bars, which provides wounded war veterans with service dogs (January WAG); and a member of the Bedford Playhouse’s cultural advisory council.

For more, visit bringchange2mind.org.

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RICHARD GERE

Accomplishments: Star of more than 40 films, including “Chicago,” for which he won a Golden Globe.

Local ties: Gere is co-owner (with Russell Hernandez) of the Bedford Post Inn and a Pound Ridge resident.

Causes of choice: A practicing Buddhist, Gere co-founded Tibet House in Manhattan and is board chairman of the International Campaign for Tibet, both dedicated to protecting the rights of the Tibetan people. His work on behalf of AIDS research and prevention has recently focused on the spread of the disease in India. There he has helped the Naz Foundation establish and expand the first AIDS Care Home in New Dehli.

For more, visit gerefoundation.org.

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RON HOWARD

Accomplishments: Oscar Award-winning director (“A Beautiful Mind”) who made a successful transition from child star (“The Andy Griffith Show,” “Happy Days”).

Local ties: A former Greenwich resident, Howard is a member of the board of directors of the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville.

Causes of choice: He directed the first PSA for his friend Glenn Close’s nonprofit Bring Change 2 Mind. Among the many organizations he has supported are Boys & Girls Clubs of America; Communities in Schools, which addresses the dropout crisis; DonorsChoose.org, which lets you decide which public school project you’d like to help fund; Oceana, to protect and restore the world’s oceans; and “The Hollywood Cookbook: Cooking for Causes.”

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PETER X. KELLY

Accomplishments: Chef and restaurateur, Kelly owns Restaurant X & The Bully Boy Bar in Congers and X20 Xaviars in his native Yonkers.

Local ties: He was born in Yonkers and raised there and in Croton-on-Hudson.

Causes of choice: Kelly’s nonprofit interests have ranged from the arts (Hudson River Museum, Rockland Center for the Arts, ArtsWestchester) to history (Putnam County Historical Society & Foundry School Museum) to children’s health (Elizabeth Seton Pediatric Center, Make-A-Wish Foundation). Not surprisingly, much of his charitable work has revolved around food, including City Meals on Wheels, the Food Bank for Westchester and Nyack Hospital’s Dine Out for Kids.

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GAYLE KING

Accomplishments: Co-anchor of “CBS This Morning,” editor-at-large of O, the Oprah Magazine.

Local ties: King is a former Greenwich resident.

Causes of choice: Among the nonprofits King has been involved in are Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, Exploring the Arts, Feed the Children, March of Dimes, UNICEF and United Cerebral Palsy.

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BLAKE LIVELY

Accomplishments: Actress (“Gossip Girl,” “The Shallows”) and lifestyle goddess.

Local ties: She lives in Bedford.

Causes of choice: Lively is the face of Premiere, a fragrance by Gucci, whose Chime for Change initiative funds 300 charitable projects in the areas of education, health and justice. Last year, she appeared at Greenwich Country Day School for a discussion on “A Path Appears,” a documentary about gender-based oppression in which she participated. In 2012, the self-styled foodie and cook worked with Sprinkles founder Candace Nelson to develop a S’more cupcake that raised $35,000 for Oxfam and its fight to end poverty. The year before, she designed a T-shirt for Japanese retailer Uniqlo to benefit victims of the Japanese earthquake.

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NIC ROLDAN

Accomplishments: Argentine-born polo player and model. An eight-goaler (out of a maximum of 10), Roldan remains the youngest player to help capture the U.S. Open Polo Championship, which he did at just 15. He is now captain of the U.S. polo team. 

Local ties: Roldan has starred for Team Audi in the East Coast Open at Greenwich Polo Club, scoring the winning goal last year.

Causes of choice: As Brooke USA ambassador, Roldan recently traveled to Guatemala to observe the organization’s role in improving the lives of the country’s working horses, donkeys and mules. Roldan will host the second Sunset Polo & White Party to benefit Brooke USA on March, 24 at The Wanderers Club in Wellington, Florida. The 2016 event raised more than $140,000 to benefit working equines around the world.

For more, visit BrookeUSA.org.

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MARK TEIXEIRA

Accomplishments: Former Major League Baseball first baseman, playing most of his professional career with the New York Yankees. A powerful switch hitter, Teixeira was key to the team’s 2009 World Series title, leading the American League in home runs and runs batted in.

Local ties: He lives in Greenwich.

Causes of choice: In 2006, Mark and wife Leigh started a foundation that has funded high school scholarships across the United States. In 2010, he donated $100,000 and joined the board of directors of Harlem RBI, which uses softball and baseball as a way to prepare young people academically and professionally. As chair of its capital campaign to build a charter school and headquarters there, he helped raise $20 million, donating the first million. But Teixeira is also a patron of local arts, supporting the Bruce Museum and the Greenwich International Film Festival.

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GRACE VANDERWAAL

Accomplishments: Singer, ukeleleist and recent winner of “America’s Got Talent”

Local ties: The tween lives in Suffern.

Causes of choice: Grace plans to donate part of her $1 million prize to a music charity.

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STEVE YOUNG

Accomplishments: The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback is a two-time NFL MVP and a Super Bowl MVP. He is a lawyer, an ESPN analyst for “Monday Night Football,” the cfounder of an equity fund and the author of the new autobiography “QB: My Life Behind the Spiral.”

Local ties: Young grew up in Greenwich where he starred in baseball, basketball and football and is now a member of the Greenwich High School Sports Hall of Fame.

Causes of choice: Young and wife Barb are co-chairs of the Forever Young Foundation. The foundation’s initiatives include Forever Young Zones and 8 to 80 Zones, equipping underserved students with technology and children’s hospitals with play areas; Sophie’s Place, creating music therapy spaces in children’s hospitals; and enhancing education and health for the youth of Ghana. 

For more, visit foreveryoung.org. 

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