Yes, Kathy Koenigsdorf of East Islip said it was a thrill to be honored Tuesday night in Manhattan at the L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth 10th Anniversary celebration. And to be introduced by Arianna Huffington. And to hobnob with the likes of Julianne Moore and Andie MacDowell. And, yes, the $10,000 award that also came along is certainly welcome.
But “the gift beyond all gifts,” said Koenigsdorf, co-founder of the Jake Koenigsdorf Foundation, was a Wednesday training session at Bloomberg headquarters where she and the other nine honorees got tips, resources and coaching from various experts on everything from marketing to how better to run their nonprofits.
She and the others, hailing from various parts of the country, were being celebrated by L’Oreal Paris for tackling pressing community issues.
Shortly after her 21-year-old son, Jake, died in 2013 of a heroin overdose, Koenigsdorf set up the foundation, which provides resources and support for recovering addicts and their families.
“We became a sorority,” she said of the other honorees, who include an event planner who arranges birthday parties for children living in homeless shelters, a woman whose organization provides personalized burials for abandoned and unidentified children, and a survivor of female genital mutilation who created a support and awareness group.
And while the affair at The Pierre hotel was a whirl, along with the stress of giving an off-the-cuff speech to 300 attendees that included former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Eva Longoria, it is the bonding experience and training session that will carry her mission forward, Koenigsdorf said.
“We’re the people with the boots,” she said, and Wednesday was all about actions that will help their endeavors.
Back in November when the honorees were announced, Koenigsdorf, 53, said her foundation had raised more than $102,000, primarily through small donations, with 98 percent of the money going directly to cover costs of addicts getting treatment, she said. At that point 123 addicts had been sent to programs of four months or longer.
When she was trying to help her son, an East Islip High School graduate, Koenigsdorf said she was naive and “always behind the eight ball,” reaching out primarily to medical people and psychiatrists. She said she has since learned the value of addicts connecting with those who are in recovery and longer-term treatment programs that help participants not just get substance-free, but develop new approaches to dealing with life’s ups and downs.
She sees her foundation endeavor as a new journey she was meant to take.
“Everything comes to you when it should for a reason,” she said. Taking no action after her son’s death was not an option. “If I don’t do something,” she said, “I’m as guilty as watching someone being beaten up.”