Tag Archives: Go50

Boxers, Bowties And Millennial Philanthropy

With many of his classmates and friends, 2003 Weston High School graduate Andy Porter spent the last few years flying all over the country for bachelor parties and weddings.

He and his buddies had a great time. But they also realized it would end. Soon, they’d focus full-time on families and careers.

How, they wondered, could they stay close over the next 20 to 40 years?

Porter and his pals know full well how lucky they were to have grown up in Fairfield County. (His roots here are deep: His grandmother — an architect — designed all the houses on Porters Lane, off Bayberry; his father was a 1967 Staples High School grad.)

Two years ago, they made a decision: They’d get together every year, to volunteer and raise money for a good cause.

The group of 9 put their professional talents to work. The accountant and finance men handled the money. The lawyer got 501(c)(3) status.

The marketers came up with the name — Boxer Bowtie Club — and the catchphrase: “Gather. Give. Grow.”

Then they went to work.

They chose the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp as their first beneficiary. Growing up near its Westport headquarters, the Boxer Bowtie members knew the amazing work it does, providing fun and friendship for seriously ill kids (and their families).

Their initial event was a black-tie cruise around Manhattan. 250 people showed up — and raised $75,000.

The Boxer Bowtie Club was not messing around.

Last year, they repeated the cruise. This time a crowd of 450 contributed $100,000.

The Boxer Bowtie Club on a Manhattan fundraising crew. Lady Liberty is in the background; a boxer is in front.

But the guys — who by now number 20 — are not satisfied with one activity a year. Each member is asked to volunteer at least 5 times a year.

Not all of those efforts are connected to the club. But some are — and they’ve spread beyond the tri-state area.

On May 6, Boxer Bowtie guys will travel from all over the country to Dallas. They’ll raise funds for Education Opens Doors, helping at-risk students navigate the college process.

Their 3rd annual New York gala is set for the fall. The original 10-year goal — to send 40 kids to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp — was accomplished in just 2. Members will decide soon which camp project or need to tackle next.

The Boxer Bowtie Club, after helping out at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. Andy Porter is at far right. Others (from left): Brooks Foley, Matt Silver, Brett Reis, Kale Butcher, Luke Dudley, Adam Luchansky.

“All of our roots are in Fairfield County,” Porter notes. “We were so fortunate to have had parents, teachers, coaches and resources to help us. So we’ll always have some projects with ties to the area.”

As you read this story, you may be thinking of Go50. That’s the Westport group — profiled recently on “06880” — of local men, ages 50 and up, who dedicate time, energy and money to great causes. They’ve done quite a bit, by coincidence, for the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.

Porter saw that story, and realized that despite the age differences, there were lots of similarities between the 2 groups. He hopes the millennial Boxer Bowtie Club and baby boomer Go50s can at some point partner — and have fun — together.

The Boxer Bowtie Club (above, at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp) hopes to work with another group that helps that Westport-based organization: Go50.

Of course, the Go50 men have already sent their children off to college. Many of the Boxer Bowtie guys don’t even have kids yet. But — after all those bachelor parties and weddings — they’re on the way.

Porter says that’s one more reason the Boxer Bowtie Club is important. “We hope we’re developing a new generation of philanthropists. We want to do that now, not later. And it’s something we can model, to pass on to our kids.”

So what about that “Boxer Bowtie” name?

“We’re all very loyal — to each other, our communities, and people in need,” Porter explains.

“Dogs are loyal too. We all had dogs growing up. And boxers are some of the most loyal dogs of all.”

As for bowties: At every annual fundraiser, one of their sponsors — David Fin neckwear — hands out bowties, with boxers on them.

It’s fun. It’s informal. It’s a way of bonding.

And it’s definitely not something you’d get at a bachelor party.

(For more information on the Boxer Bowtie Club, click here. Founding members are Kale Butcher, Emil Defrancesco, Luke Dudley, Glen Kendall, Adam Luchansky, Andy Porter, Brett Reis, Matt Silver and Ryan Squillante. Sponsors include the Trunk Club, David Fin and Stella Artois.)

Steve Ruchefsky’s Gang Of 50

For his 50th birthday, Steve Ruchefsky figured he’d whip up a nice feast for a few friends.

That quickly evolved into an invitation to Bill Taibe. He’s an even better cook than Steve — who is, after all, a lawyer who now manages private investments, while Bill at the time owned Le Farm and was about to open The Whelk. So 5 years ago the backyard of Steve and his wife Rondi Charleston’s handsome Evergreen Avenue home was transformed into the setting for a killer 5-course meal.

Steve — who considers himself lucky, with a “wonderful wife, great daughter and amazing friends” — capped the occasion by announcing a $1 million gift to the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.

He knew Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward through serving on the Westport Country Playhouse board. Steve’s donation allowed the camp in upstate Connecticut — which “creates fun and friendship for seriously ill children and their families” — to build a residence for doctors and their own families. “Steve’s Station” made it easier for them to stay longer — and their kids to enjoy the facility too.

It was a wonderful gesture. But that was only the start of Steve’s post-50 life.

“I had 2 ephipanies,” he says, 5 years later. “I grew up in Rockaway Beach. I didn’t have a lot. So I knew I wanted to help people.”

Steve Ruchefsky and Rondi Charleston in their wine cellar.

At the same time, he adds, “I wanted to do more than writing a check. I wanted to have fun with my guy friends.”

He rounded up 6 of them. All felt blessed to live here. All had spent the first part of their lives building careers and families, then seeing their children off to college. All had plenty of energy, and the desire to make time in their busy lives for others.

The result: “Go50.” (It stands for “Guys Over 50.”)

Those men — now 13 — are all at least 50 years old, and eager to “get out of our bubble, get dirty, and get going to do good.”

Many names are familiar: Tom Cope, John Engelhart, Jim Hardy, Barry Leskin, Matthew Maddox, Vinny Mullineaux, Jim Naughton, John Porio, John Seigenthaler, David Tetenbaum, Doug Weber and Steven Wolff.

Their first project was at the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp. The boathouse was crammed with boats, canoes, fishing rods. Nothing was organized.

Nine “Go50” guys headed north in a van. They emptied, cleaned, sorted and painted. They got rid of old equipment. Campers, counselors and administrators loved what they’d done.

Go50 guys, after cleaning the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp boathouse.

Energized, the “Go50” gang tackled the Burroughs Community Center in Bridgeport. They painted and renovated a conference room, bringing new life to the building.

Then they wondered how they could do more than some one-off projects.

“None of us served in the military,” Steve says. “We were spared from the draft, and could start our careers when we were young. We decided we wanted to give back to people who did serve in the armed forces.”

Just off I-95 in Bridgeport is Homes for the Brave. The non-profit provides housing, vocational training, job placement, mental health and addiction services, and life skills coaching to help individuals — especially veterans, many of whom have been in prison or have addiction issues — leave homelessness behind.

Steve committed “Go50” to an ongoing relationship. They’ll prepare meals, clean the grounds, and help where and however they can.

Homes for the Brave helps veterans in many ways.

That’s one story. It’s a great one.

Then Steve heard about Homes for the Brave’s newest project.

Created by Peter Van Heerden — former executive director of the Westport Arts Center, now head of Fairfield University’s Quick Center — along with Westport artist Nina Bentley, it’s a show in which people living at the Homes tell their stories.

The performance is called “War Stories.” But they’re really “life stories.”

Notes posted at a recent “War Stories” rehearsal.

Steve has seen rehearsals. “These are not actors or writers. They’re men and women who have served our country. Life has been hard for them.

“They’re not Gold Star veterans who came home to parades. They’re vets who for the most part joined up to get away from trouble. But they came back and found themselves in trouble again.”

A recent preview in Hartford earned a standing ovation.

Steve wants to get the word out about upcoming performances at the Quick Center (Friday and Saturday, March 31 and April 1 — click here for more details; click here for tickets).

Steve Ruchefsky (center) at a “War Stories” rehearsal.

Learning about “War Stories” has inspired Steve to do even more with “Go50.”

“We have a great time together. We get a lot done, and we laugh a lot,” he says.

One thing they laugh about is that they’re all over 50, yet they’re “gang members.”

But what a gang!