Actress Eva Longoria at "Rally For Kids With Cancer" in Miami Beach. (Photo courtesy of Katie Winter/ABM).
Eva Longoria with Market America President J.R. Ridinger. (Photo courtesy of Katie Winter/ABM).
Market America Senior VP Loren Ridinger outside the Eden Roc Renaissance. (Photo courtesy of Katie Winter/ABM).
Eva Longoria with friend Jamie-Lynn Sigler at the Eden Roc Renaissance. (Photo courtesy of Katie Winter/ABM).
INVARIABLY, SHE'S THE MOST beautiful woman in every room into which she walks. Can't be any other way. Not with that long, flowing brown hair and those gigantic matching eyes. There's an undeniable natural easiness about her, one that creates an instant sense of comfort for the myriad of photographers assigned to snap shots of her on red carpets and at corporate functions. Now, I've never been inside of her enormous home, the waterfront castle whose exterior is wrapped in rich green ivy, but I've seen the pictures. Tons and tons of them. In architectural mags, in fashion mags, in lifestyle mags, and all I can surmise is that it's the way God would do it if he had the cash.
Indeed, she has all the money in the world. Yet, what she chooses to do in her down-time is not just come to fundraisers like these, but to organize the event, starting and ending with each seemingly insignificant detail she can conjure.
Dusk on a Friday evening at the Eden Roc Renaissance on Collins Avenue in Miami Beach. She could have her chauffeured black Rolls take her anywhere. Quite literally. But thousands of children around town are dying of an incurable, insidious disease. So she has come here, as co-chair of "Rally For Kids With Cancer," just like she did a year ago for the inaugural Miami version of the event. By weekend's end, more than $425,000 will have been raised, the direct result of her tireless work.
That's just the kind of person Loren Ridinger was raised to become. It was two decades ago when, alongside her husband, J.R., she co-founded Market America from their modest North Carolina home. That was before the billions and billions of dollars in sales began pouring in, and before the Ridingers relocated permanently to South Florida. Undeniably, as MA's P&L statements have grown, so too has the couple's philanthropy.
"Children have always been of great interest to us," Loren Ridinger tells me upon arrival at the Eden Roc. "They are very dear to our hearts. Every child deserves a level playing field. There's nothing we wouldn't do for kids."
This marks the second straight year that Ridinger has co-chaired "Rally" in Miami in tandem with her closest friend, the actress Eva Longoria. It first began in 2008 and annually happens in four other North American cities: Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Toronto. "Rally" was started by Joel Hock, who founded and serves as president of a Toronto-based event management company called Solutions With Impact. His first "Rally" took place during a film festival in his hometown. Owners of luxury cars anteed $25,000 to be paired with celebrity navigators for an all-in-good-fun motorized scavenger hunt. In the end, $1.2 million was raised for pediatric cancer research and care.
"Toronto has always been our best city," says Hock. "We had 28 drivers participate in Toronto this year and we raised $2.6 million. We expect to go to 40 drivers next year and they tell me we're going to go to $3.5 million. That's the model we're trying to get to in every city." So with their collective star-power, Ridinger and Longoria summoned the help of more than a dozen familiar folks who descended on Miami to lend support.
The full list:
• Adrian Bellani ("Desperate Housewives," "Passions");
• Bill Dorfman ("Extreme Makeover," "The Doctors");
• Bridget Marquardt ("Bridget's Sexiest Beaches");
• Christina Milian (actress/singer);
• Cindy Barshop ("The Real Housewives of New York");
• Ivan Sergei ("The Opposite of Sex," "Jack and Jill,");
• Jaime Camil ("Puños Rosas," "Zapata," "7 Días");
• Jamie-Lynn Sigler ("The Sopranos," "Entourage");
• Jessie Camacho ("Curse of Alcatraz," "Reno 911");
• Maria Conchita Alonso ("Desperate Housewives");
• Michael Yo (E! News);
• Nic Roldan (professional polo player);
• OJ McDuffie (Penn State University, Miami Dolphins);
• Shantel VanSanten ("Final Destination");
• Shawn Wooden (Notre Dame, Miami Dolphins).
That she would participate in an endeavor to help the lives of others shouldn't come as a great shock to anyone who has lived in or visited Miami this millennium. Loren Ridinger and her family (including 18-year-old daughter, Amber) are about as generous as possibly imaginable. They steadfastly give of their time and savings to the Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis, the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Florida, and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, to name just three. There are many more. As a point of fact, Amber Ridinger donated $5,000 of her bat-mitzvah money in 2005 to Make-A-Wish.
As for the "Rally" festivities themselves, the official draft party on Friday night was incomparable. Consider that the maker of the planet's very best vodka, Grey Goose, churned out cocktails, two of Miami's most highly regarded eateries, Sushi Samba and STK, worked up merely a fraction of the appetizers, and the beloved DJ Irie provided entertainment in his inimitable style, and it could only be described as such -- incomparable.
Longoria couldn't attend the draft party because of a work commitment, but she arrived in time to wave a ceremonial checkered flag and pose for 493 gazillion photos on Saturday. "She can't wait to get here and keeps texting me, telling me not to have any fun without her," Loren Ridinger confided to me on the draft party red carpet.
The actual scavenger hunt commenced after an 11:30 a.m. "Start Your Engines Brunch," mere hours after the pre-party wound down, with Amber Ridinger and her fiancé Duane McLaughlin, claiming victory. The team of J.R. Ridinger and Longoria won in 2010.
Longoria was also responsible for illiciting the participation of her close friend, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, who flew in from Los Angeles for the fundraiser.
Sigler gained global recognition for her portrayal of Meadow Soprano on HBO's universally and critically acclaimed mob series, "The Sopranos," from 1999 through 2007, but she's been on a self-imposed hiatus from acting since her departure from "Entourage" two seasons ago. Instead, she's turned her focus to writing. As for short-term plans, Sigler said she's about to head to Europe to fête her 30th birthday, and will begin to consider new on-camera options upon arrival back home.
"Not only is this such a fun event, but I've known a lot of people in my own life who have been affected by this awful disease," she says to me inside the lobby of the Eden Roc. "I love Miami, even though it's been a while since I've visited. When I come, I tend to do the quiet Miami instead of the wild Miami. One of my very best friends lives down here with her husband and their baby. So we tend to do the beach or just hang out."
Written by: DAVID COLEN