NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 28:  (L-R) Dikembe Mutombo, Caryl M. Stern, Carol J. Hamilton and Nicolas Hieronimus speak onstage during 13th Annual UNICEF Snowflake Ball 2017 at Cipriani Wall Street on November 28, 2017 in New York City.  (Photo by Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for UNICEF )

The UNICEF-sponsored snowflake that hangs at the intersection of 57th Street and Fifth Avenue might have been illuminated during the organization’s 13th annual Snowflake Ball on Tuesday evening, but it was L’Oréal’s Carol Hamilton who really shone. Hamilton was honored with the Spirit of Compassion award for her work in creating clean water supplies for impoverished children worldwide through Giorgio Armani’s Acqua di Gio Acqua for Life program. Since its inception in 2009, the program has raised more than $4 million.

Hamilton, the group president of L’Oréal Luxe USA, has long championed philanthropic initiatives at L’Oréal. But a 2009 meeting with UNICEF’s Caryl Stern made the professional personal for Hamilton, who has since been on three missions with the organization and also serves on Unicef USA’s board. Noting that she doesn’t have children, she spoke of the impact the trips had on her, particularly a journey to Mekele, Ethiopia, where a newly built water station provides safe, clean water for villagers in a 20-meter radius “24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Hamilton said proudly. There, she met a young girl who took a shining to the executive. “She asked me, ‘Can I be your child,’” remembered Hamilton. “That moment changed my life.”

L’Oréal’s deputy chief executive officer Nicolas Hieronimus jetted over for the day — arriving from Paris in the early afternoon and heading back on a 10:30 pm flight — to present Hamilton with her award. “[Carol’s] personal commitment to make a difference is very symbolic of what L’Oréal not only believes in, but what L’Oréal has committed to: Making the world more beautiful…not just by selling great lipsticks or antiwrinkle creams, but through philanthropic commitments, playing our role as a large corporation, to help address some of the major global challenges such as precarious social conditions, climate change or scarcity of resources.”

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Former NBA star Dikembe Mutombo, who befriended Hamilton during a joint trip to Africa, also lauded the executive. “Carol Hamilton always puts the needs of others before herself,” he said, “and empowers women around the globe.”

“You are so tall, Dikembe!” Hamilton said as she came to the stage. “But your heart is even bigger.”

The evening was hosted by Harry Connick Jr. and featured a moving performance by Diana Ross.

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