On any given day, behind the exclusive doors of the historic Friars Club in Midtown, Manhattan one can expect to see a number of funny comedians, high-profile celebrities and powerful business moguls, sharing meals or attending a celebrity roast. What might seem to be nothing more than a high-profile hangout of the stars, surprisingly also has a deep-rooted sense of community and obligation to giving, one that dates back nearly 50 years.
The Friars Club’s historic tradition of charity can proudly be traced back nearly half a century, all running through the Friars’ charitable operation: The Friars Foundation. An organization, which, according to their site, is dedicated to “the betterment of our society, particularly in the area of the performing arts.” The Friars Foundation offers grants and scholarships to students and individuals. 75% of grants are given to students as scholarships for performing arts and to small performing arts groups. The remaining 25% is given to “organizations helping the less fortunate.”
The Lincoln Awards
Michael Gyure is the executive director of the Friars Club and the Friars Foundation, he is also one of the cofounders of The Lincoln Awards, a concert for veterans and the military family. The award takes its name from the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, who called for the care of the nation’s veterans and their families during his second inaugural address. The 2015 Lincoln Awards were presented through the Friars Club through The Friars Foundation.
This high-profile event, which hosted appearances from stars such as Michelle Obama, Dr. Jill Biden, Bruce Springsteen and Nick Jonas, was a one-of-a-kind experience dedicated to the oft-neglected military veterans and their families. As a way of saying thank you, and recognizing them for their sacrifices on the biggest stage.
The nationally broadcasted show honored its 10 inaugural recipients at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Concert Hall in front of thousands of military spouses, caregivers, veterans and active-duty service members, all of whom were given free tickets to this special show.
USA Today wrote in their description of the scope and impact of the event. “Actors have Oscars. Live theater, the Tony Awards. Journalists receive Pulitzers and scientists Nobel Prizes. Now there is the Lincoln – for veterans.”
The Sunshine Committee
One of the Friars Club’s longest running charitable initiatives is the Sunshine Committee. For nearly 50 years, this committee has worked to provide “entertainment and companionship to senior citizens and disadvantaged children throughout the metropolitan area.” Additionally, during the holiday season, the Sunshine Committee will host over a thousand children to their annual Christmas/Hanukkah Spectacular, where they are treated to movie screenings and a celebrity Santa toy giveaway. It’s another example of the Friars using their long standing influence to affect the lives of those in need. It highlights the initiative many of the high-profile Friars take when it comes to charitable giving. They aren’t just giving away some money. They’re giving their time and energy to try to make a difference during a time of year that, for many, can be emotionally and financially difficult.
The Friars Foundation’s Adopt-A-Scholar program offers four-year scholarships to individuals interested in pursuing careers in performing arts, with several of its over 360 recipients going on to careers in regional theater, Broadway and Hollywood. The Adopt-A-Scholar program puts a strong emphasis on developing and nurturing the arts and preserving the industries that helped bring many of the Friars to prominence.
Three long standing, active charitable initiatives that aren’t just about money, but making a difference in people’s lives. That is the essence of the Friars Club and the Friar’s Foundation. Frank Sinatra, Abbot of the Friars Club from 1975 to 1996, said it best, “Their continuous good work for charity, rather than their many great triumphs on the stages of the world, is the true glory of this band of earthly angels known as the Friars.”