ebruary is always a busy month on the Palm Beach fundraising circuit, and this year promises to be especially bustling — after all, one of the main fundraising venues doubles as President Trump’s private club and “winter White House.”
Well-known hospitals and medical organizations are among those with events planned at the glitzy compound this month. But in recent weeks those same organizations have been directly affected by Trump’s executive order on immigration, with staff and patients unable to travel in and out of the country.
Here, four of the most notable health care galas coming up, and the controversy they’ve stirred.
American Red Cross
This Saturday night, the Red Cross is hosting its 60th annual ball, “Vienna to Versailles,” in reference to the French palace of King Louis XVI, who was beheaded during the French Revolution.
The white-tie event will raise money for the humanitarian organization, whose workers have traveled around the world to assist and care for refugees — the very population now in limbo by Trump’s order.
That fact hasn’t been lost on protesters, nearly 1,700 of whom have indicated on Facebook that they plan to picket the fundraiser.
An advertisement for the ball in Quest magazine promises a lavish weekend: on Friday, an “elegant diplomat dinner for ambassadors and dignitaries,” followed by a Sunday “celebrity polo match and champagne brunch.”
Trump will also be at Mar-a-Lago this weekend, but it’s unclear whether he plans to attend the event.
Last year, the Duke of Westminster attended, along with ambassadors from Afghanistan, Denmark, Japan, and Peru, the Washington Post reported. The year before, William Shatner, the famed Captain Kirk, made an appearance.
The Red Cross hasn’t taken a stance on the executive order, but did say in a statement Tuesday that it will “when requested by local authorities … provide basic support to stranded travelers affected by the recent executive order on immigration.”
The American Cancer Society
Under the banner of “Rock Palm Beach,” the annual fundraiser for the American Cancer Society eschews formal-wear and instead advises its attendees to come in “colorful chic attire.”
The party, planned for Feb. 10, will feature “lavish food stations” along with “several musical acts” — including Lou Gramm, former lead singer of Foreigner — and “surprise guests,” according to the event’s website.
Don’t expect Trump to be a surprise guest, however — a spokesperson for the American Cancer Society told STAT that there’s “no indication” he will attend. Tickets start at $550.
The American Cancer Society has not yet released a public statement about Trump’s executive order.
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Dana-Farber’s Feb. 15 “Discovery Celebration” is billed as “an elegant evening of fine cuisine, dinner, dancing” with a minimum $1,250 ticket price. This year’s event will feature a performance by musician David Foster (last year it was James Taylor).
But the event has come under fire from Harvard Medical School students and faculty, who are leading a protest urging the hospital to cancel the fundraiser. (Dana-Farber is one of 16 Boston-area hospitals and research institutions affiliated with the medical school.)
A petition with over 1,500 signatories from the medical school and beyond says the event is “tantamount to endorsing President Trump, including his recent executive order on immigration and refugees.”
One Iranian researcher on her way to the US to do research in a Harvard lab was turned away at an airport in Germany. The visa of another researcher from Iran, on his way to Brigham and Women’s Hospital, also affiliated with Harvard, who hadn’t yet departed was suspended for three months.
Dana-Farber’s president and chairman of the board of trustees told the students that the hospital sympathizes with their concerns, but that it’s too late to cancel the event, the Boston Globe reported.
The Cleveland Clinic’s black-tie fundraiser is Feb. 25, and, like the Red Cross, the clinic went with a pre-revolution opulence vibe with its event titled “Reflections of Versailles: A Night in the Hall of Mirrors.”
But after one of its staff doctors was barred from entering the United States, the clinic has come under fire for hosting an event at Trump’s club. The doctor arrived in New York from Saudi Arabia on Saturday, and was turned away from the US because she holds a Sudanese passport. (The doctor is now suing Trump.)
Hundreds of medical students and doctors have since signed an open letter demanding the event be canceled and that the Cleveland Clinic publicly decry Trump’s actions.
“Your willingness to hold your fundraiser at a Trump resort is an unconscionable prioritization of profit over people,” they wrote in a petition. “It is impossible for the Cleveland Clinic to reconcile supporting its employees and patients while simultaneously financially and publicly aiding an individual who directly harms them.”
However, the event is still going forward. Spokesperson Eileen Sheil told the Boston Globe that the choice of location is not a political statement and that the clinic will “probably consider having it elsewhere in the future.”