As a leading lady behind ABT’s philanthropic efforts, Sarah Arison ensures the ballet remains center stage.
“When I was little, my grandmother and I used to walk down Lincoln Road in Miami and watch the Miami City Ballet practice through the windows, and I would dream of being a ballerina,” shares philanthropist and American Ballet Theatre (abt.org) trustee Sarah Arison. “I danced until I was 12 years old but never stopped loving ballet.” The blond beauty (whose grandmother also served on the board of ABT) was recently awarded the Melville Straus Leadership Award for her achievements in championing the arts at the annual fall gala and also serves as chair of the National YoungArts Foundation and a co-chair of ABT’s Education Committee. “Philanthropy is not just about writing a check. It’s about participating in your community, getting involved and helping in whatever way you can with something that you love and believe in,” she says. “We are living in a time when it’s very easy to be isolated—you can do everything digitally or remotely—and you can remove yourself from the real world and genuine human interaction. Being a part of a community with a common mission is so rewarding: Spending your days interacting with people with the same interests and ethos is a great way to feel like you’re a part of something and to meet wonderful people.”
With endless energy for giving, Jean Shafiroff believes every party has a purpose.
“I think there’s no real rhyme or reason to why we live this life. I could have just as well been born into extreme poverty in a different part of a world. I believe with gifts comes responsibility,” explains Jean Shafiroff, who literally wrote the book on philanthropy (Successful Philanthropy: How to Make a Life By What You Give). After school at Columbia University, the petite powerhouse witnessed tremendous suffering while working as a physical therapist at an inner-city hospital. “I saw people who lived in poverty and who also had a lot of illness, and I think that left a mark on me,” she says. From visiting orphanages with the Cambodian Child’s Dream organization to missions to destinations of extreme poverty like Colombia, Nicaragua and Haiti, Shafiroff has a tireless passion for those in need. “If you’ve done any of this kind of traveling, where you go into very, very poor communities, it really has its effect. Now I’m on seven boards,” Shafiroff says of her current causes, which range from animal advocacy groups like Global Strays to the Museum at FIT’s Couture Council, plus a dizzying schedule of nonstop events she chairs and supports. “I was on eight, but I had to rotate off of The New York Women’s Foundation’s board because my term ended. But I hope to go back on in a year.” Spoken like a true crusader.