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NEW YORK — Despite the economic turmoil, Fashion Delivers’ annual gala exceeded its financial goal, raising $1.3 million and filling the Grand Ballroom at The Pierre Hotel to overflowing.

The Tuesday night event drew 765 people to honor Michael Balmuth, chief executive officer of Ross Stores Inc.; Rick Darling, president of LF USA, and Matthew McCauley, ceo of The Gymboree Corp.

This story first appeared in the December 4, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York drew the biggest laughs of the evening when he singled out his “fashion credentials,” pointing out that Us Weekly last year named him as one of the 25 most stylish New Yorkers.

“I tell people to wear what you want, just as long as you don’t wear red socks to a Yankees game,” he said, pointing out that he has been “experimenting” with his wardrobe recently, and now has “business suits in 17 different shades of gray.”

On a serious note, Bloomberg thanked Fashion Delivers and its sister charity, Kids in Distressed Situations, for donating thousands of books to the city’s public school system, the largest in the U.S.

“We have become the poster child for how to reform a big-city educational system,” he said, citing the strides that have been made during his tenure and acknowledging that more needs to be done.

In New York City and around the country Fashion Delivers and K.I.D.S. donated $62 million worth of product last year to victims of natural disasters and those in need.

Darling, who received the Fashion Has a Heart award from Fashion Delivers chairman Allan Ellinger, was “humbled” by the response to this year’s drive from an industry “that is going through pain.”

McCauley, honored for his philanthropic efforts, said Gymboree has made a point of giving back to kids since its founding 30 years ago. “It feels great to give back just a little bit.”

Balmuth, who is publicity-shy, said he agreed to step into the spotlight because of the work that the organizations does.

“The merchandise we take for granted makes a difference in their outlook and sense of hope,” he said of the recipients of the men’s, women’s and children’s apparel, toys and home furnishings.

The final award of the evening went posthumously to Stuart G. Moldow, founder of Ross Stores and one-time chairman of Gymboree. It was accepted by his wife of 58 years, Phyllis.

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