By  on March 29, 2013

There was an absence of the usual honorees and the crowd appeared a bit sparse, but the recent March of Dimes Beauty Ball, held at Cipriani 42nd Street, was not without celebrity presence.

Organizers had decided that the best way to celebrate the organization’s 75th anniversary was to scrap the traditional honoree format and have a dance party instead — with plenty of music pounding through the sound system from the turntables of DJ Cassidy.

There were more than 300 people at the March 12 event, compared with last year’s 350 to 375 attendees, and a large number of them ended up on the dance floor, leaving the dinner tables empty by 8:45 p.m.

An auction conducted by CK Swett of Phillips de Pury and sponsored by March of Dimes’ “partners” — Coty, Givaudan, Avon Products, Shiseido, L’Oréal USA, Condé Nast and International Flavors & Fragrances — augmented the fund-raising.

According to a spokeswoman for the March of Dimes, more than $700,000 was raised. That compares to last year’s more than $1.3 million.

Bill Boraczek, senior vice president of marketing at Coty Beauty, saluted “the extraordinary accomplishments of March of Dimes over the past 75 years.

“It is a true honor to be here tonight to celebrate not only the March of Dimes’ rich history, but also to celebrate the future everyone here tonight is helping to create — a healthier and happier tomorrow for millions of babies,” he concluded. “That is what the March of Dimes is fighting for, and what all of us tonight are here to support.”

The need for the organization’s work was driven home by the real headliners of the evening: three families that have struggled in the aftermath of premature births. The personal stories of the families culminated in the on-stage appearance of twin sisters Hannah and Alexa Freede, both in fifth grade. Their birth was premature by two months, leaving them both severely underweight. Hannah, who weighed 3.3 pounds at birth, spent a month in the hospital before going home to begin years of physical therapy to strengthen her underdeveloped muscles.

But she was luckier than her sister, Alexa, who weighed only 2.9 pounds. Alexa was born with six holes in her heart and developed breathing problems. After three-and-a-half months in the hospital, open-heart surgery led to a second operation. She also had difficulties eating properly and required a feeding tube until age eight, when the device was removed for good. “That was one the happiest days of my life,” the little girl said, standing next to her bigger sister. “It has been a tough road for me but today I am your typical fifth-grader. My mom always calls me, ‘Sweet and Petite,’” she proudly declared.

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