Overlooking the Hudson on a sunny, brisk Sunday afternoon on Perry Street, Sophia Schrager and her co-hosts, sister Ava Schrager and friends Emma Lasry, Anna Novogratz, and Gabby Novogratz, invited guests to a shopping event with Me&Ro’s Robyn Renzi to support the Joyful Heart Foundation, a nonprofit supporting victims of sexual assault and violence. While the co-hosts of the party have arguably some of the most well-known last names in Manhattan and beyond, these young women are already thinking about how they can impact the world in a positive way beyond the usual gala affairs. “You don’t have to donate millions of dollars to make a difference,” said Schrager, who is full of poise and purpose at 21 years old. “Just talking about it can make a difference. Even just saying ‘I believe you’ or ‘I’m so sorry that happened to you’ can make such a difference. Even having a school bake sale can make a difference.”
Schrager, who has been interning and working at the Joyful Heart Foundation for the past four years, founded #GenerationJoy as a platform for her generation to speak out about social issues, particularly those dear to Joyful Heart. “Sophia really wanted to get more people our age involved and so she asked me if I would come help out. It’s such an amazing organization,” said Lasry. They are currently in the process of creating a mission statement and a junior committee, but the new platform is meant to reach beyond the New York City bubble. “We really want #GenerationJoy to be a commitment of the younger generation of advocates to make a stand against sexual violence and sexual assault and really see how they can start the conversations about these issues not only in New York City, but globally,” said Karoline Katus, the development director for the Joyful Heart Foundation.
Joyful Heart was founded by Mariska Hargitay, who has been working with Me&Ro’s Renzi for the past 12 years to bring proceeds of sales from Renzi’s jewelry to the organization. This year, the event raised $10,000. “Mariska was wearing our ‘Fearlessness’ necklace on Law & Order, band she called me up out of the blue one day to make a necklace for her charity, and that was over a decade ago,” said Renzi, who is celebrating her brand’s 25th anniversary this year. “Since then we’ve raised somewhere around $700,000 for the Joyful Heart Foundation through our sales.” Fun fact: Renzi, Rita Schrager (Sophia’s mother), and Ann McNally were all dancers and have bonded over their love of the art. Take a peek at Steve Winwood’s music video for his classic hit “Higher Love” and you can spot Renzi dancing in the background. In fact, Winwood’s hit is the perfect theme song for the event.
“We feel that people our age don’t realize the potential we have,” said Schrager. “We feel that if we used our voices together then we are together stronger. Look at this incredible event and how much money we are raising for this organization. You just have to be passionate. Anything that you can do helps and makes a difference.”
Photo credit: ©Patrick McMullan