Philanthropy, fashion, and family—nowhere do these seemingly disparate worlds come together as seamlessly as in the diverse metropolis that is New York City. And Eleanor Ylvisaker, a born-and-raised Manhattanite and mom-of-two, is the perfect example. This, year, Ylvisaker—an NYU grad who co-founded the luxury denim label Earnest Sewn and the personal styling website FEYT.com, and has worked in the fashion departments of Lucky and Harper’s Bazaar—has a new, and very meaningful, role to add to her impressive resume: Chairman of the Associates Committee of The Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
“Cancer is something that is prevalent in my family and when I was looking at organizations to get involved in, I was really looking for something that was a working committee, it wasn’t just about fundraising and benefits, it was really a committee that is involved with the organization in a hands-on way,” Ylvisaker recalls, as she explains how she first became involved with the Committee. “Obviously MSK has such an amazing heritage and reputation, so I knew it would be an amazing cause…I served as an Associate for many years and then kept getting more involved and more involved, and I’m now the Chair.”
The Associates Committee is made up of a group of about 50 women, whose mission is to help fundraise for special projects at MSK with a focus on pediatrics. As Chair—a 2-year commitment—Ylvisaker’s role is to oversee the Associates and lead monthly meetings. Taking an active role in The Society’s annual events is also an important part of her job. And next on the agenda? The 24th annual Bunny Hop event—a family- and kid-friendly party aimed at raising money for pediatric initiatives at MSK.
“The Bunny Hop is an amazing event because it’s a family event. All the funds raised at the event go to pediatrics at Memorial. It’s a special event because the whole family can be involved—unlike some charity events, where it’s for grown-ups and it’s at night and it’s a fancy party,” she explains.
The event—which is scheduled this year for March 3 at 583 Park Avenue—will include a live animal show, petting zoo, photo booths, spin art, a DJ, a magician, balloon artists, three acts from the Big Apple Circus, and Clown Care® Doctors (specially trained clowns from Big Apple Circus’ community outreach initiative who have been an integral part of MSK’s inpatient and outpatient pediatric units). Additionally, Ylvisaker hopes to make this year’s event even more poignant by infusing activities that teach children attendees about the importance of giving back.
“One of the ideas is to have [kids] bring in change and have a change machine in the vestibule at the party, so that when kids come, they have this idea of giving,” she says. “It’s not really about the amount, it’s about having something and they’re giving it. We’re also hoping to have children at the party work on a banner in the arts and crafts station that will be put up in the pediatric department at MSK…there are all kinds of things we’re discussing to try to make the event more meaningful than it already is.”
Cultivating a habit of charitable thinking is something that Ylvisaker experienced in her own upbringing—her mother, a former Catholic nun, felt a call to service after losing a sister to cancer and engrained that mindset in her children. Now, Ylvisaker is mindful of practicing the spirit of giving at home with her own children, 5.5-year-old Alistair and 4-year-old Ella.
“I started something with my kids that’s inspired by the idea of finding charity and instilling that from a young age. My kids have sort of like an allowance, and they have a set of chores they need to do…at the end of the day, if they’ve done everything, they get a sticker on their [chore] chart, and if at the end of the week they’ve gotten a sticker every day, they get a dollar. And they have three jars: One is the save jar, one is the spend jar, and one is the give jar,” she explains. “It’s a way to introduce the idea of charity at a young age without it being too overwhelming.”
And just how does Ylvisaker—who, on top of her manifold duties as Chair of the Associates Committee and as a mother, is also in the process of selling FEYT.com with her business partner, and fellow Associate, Ferebee Taube—keep the different facets of her life in check without getting too overwhelmed herself? “I definitely think that it’s so tricky, especially in New York, where so many people are balancing careers and balancing their kids,” she notes. “But I do think there are ways, and we see it on the Associates Committee all the time…there are just so many ways to get involved, you just have to be realistic about how much time you have, and sort of manage it that way.”
To learn more about the upcoming Bunny Hop on March 3, visit thesocietyofmskcc.org