by Karen Alberg Grossman
One of the most beloved of industry events since 1941, this year’s Father of the Year Awards, held on Monday, June 11, was another beautiful tear-jerker, filled with both heartfelt sentiment and genuine laughter. The honorees were Emanuel “Manny” Chirico, chairman and CEO of PVH Corp; Willie Geist, host of NBC’s “Sunday Today” and co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”; and actor Mario Lopez, host of the syndicated TV program “Extra.” The Ashok C. Sani All-Star Dad award went to Ben Taylor, a radio executive, volunteer firefighter and youth sports coach. Proceeds from the event went to the popular charity, Save The Children.

Taylor’s award was presented by his 12-year-old son Brad, who eloquently read his winning essay that told of his dad’s work ethic. To paraphrase: “My dad has a long commute to his regular job and then works at night fighting fires. (He joined the force at age 40 and became their oldest rookie ever.) What’s more amazing about my dad is that he still finds time to coach my teams, to do the laundry for mom on weekends, and to teach all three of his kids to work hard, be respectful, and have good manners. (I’m told I have really good manners for a 12-year-old!)” Accepting the award, Ben Taylor said his son’s essay was “the most elaborate plan ever devised to get what he wants for Christmas, birthdays and all other occasions for the rest of his life!”

Lopez talked about how his immigrant parents worked hard to keep him too busy to get in trouble. “They didn’t allow me to be lazy: they taught me to work hard, stay focused and always do the right thing. Being an inner-city kid myself who benefited from financial support from various organizations, I am delighted that proceeds from today’s event will go to Save the Children and the programs they provide to the 1 in 5 children who live in poverty in the U.S.”

Geist, who immediately accused Lopez of violating the “dad bod” aesthetic, shared a list of interesting things his kids (now ages 9 and 11) have said over the years. For example: “If I’m taking a shower and I step out and then go right back in, can that count as my shower for today and tomorrow?” “Does Bigfoot have children?” And, showing some early expertise in world affairs, “How did El Chapo really build that tunnel?”

Chirico’s son, Dominic (who works at PVH), presented the award to his dad, proclaiming him “best in class” at both his career and his family. “I’m lucky that I get to see him in action in both roles, and in both, he teaches by example,” he said. Meanwhile, Manny noted that as the senior award winner at this event, he has one comment for the others: “Just wait: your kids are not yet teenagers!” He went on to thank his parents (married for 64 years and his role models for parenting). “My parents didn’t say a lot but they set the bar high and expected us to work hard and be successful. I remember, as a new father, driving from Arthur Avenue with my dad who advised me: “The best gift you can give your son is to love his mother.” He then thanked his three sons (“You made us proud every day; you made being a dad easy!), his two daughters-in-law, his two granddaughters and his wife Joanne, who “puts everyone else first and is the best person I know.”

The luncheon, hosted by Mark Shriver and Dan Orwig, raised almost $40,000 in twitter donations at the event, bringing this year’s total proceeds to $1.25 million. Save the Children’s Re-Teach summer program provides education, and two full meals, to children who live in poverty.