Mercer Wellness Foundation Benefit Signals the East End Health Kick

On June 30, the Wellness Foundation of East Hampton is holding a tented summer benefit for 250 overlooking Hook Pond as the first step in making this unique community program self-sustaining.

Best-selling vegan author Kathy Freston will be among the special guests at the Wellness Foundation's first annual gala.

Douglas Mercer’s Wellness Foundation has left a visible impact on hundreds of East Enders who collectively have lost thousands of pounds and  lowered cholesterol by thousands of points and in some cases have ditched diabetes or blood pressure medications.  On June 30, the Foundation is holding a tented summer benefit for 250 at the Mercer home overlooking Hook Pond as the first step in making this unique community program self-sustaining. (Buy tickets here.)

The low-cost program which counters the messages of industrial food by promoting the value of plant-based diets has already reached 3,000 local school children from 3-year-olds in day care on up. There’s no age cap. Last winter, a 91-year-old Sag Harbor woman dropped 70 points in her cholesterol after six weeks on the Foundation’s Challenge.

Benefit guests will include heavy-hitters on the national nutrition scene who have guided the Foundation as members of its advisory council since its founding six years ago: Dr. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study and Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr. of The Cleveland Clinic were featured in the film Forks over Knives along with Dr. Pam Popper.  Popper author of Solving America’s Health Care Crisis, is founder and executive director of The Wellness Forum. Dr. Antonia Demas, president of the Food Studies Institute developed a program, Food Is Elementary, used in more than 2,000 schools in 33 states.

Special guest at the East Hampton Village gathering will be Kathy Freston, whose appearance underscores the messages of her best-selling books, The Lean and The Veganist,  and interviews on TV from The Oprah to Dr. Oz shows. The Art of Eating, which has a special expertise in things vegan, is catering the vegan hors d’oeuvres.  There will be music by Jane Hastey, Peter Martin Weiss and John Cataletto.

Not only has the Foundation helped slim the Hamptons, but it offers ongoing support, including monthly potlucks to those who have taken its challenge. It has also enlisted the support of local business. Twenty-five restaurants have been awarded Foundation “Ws” for approved vegan dishes. The East Hampton WMCA and S.Y.S Southampton Youth Services/Southampton Town Rec. center and Gubbins Running offer 20% discounts to past and current Challenge-takers. The Hampton Seafood Co., Sag Harbor’s Page at 63 Main and Muse in the Harbor offers them 10% off the bill and The Golden Pear 10% off the bill on Wednesday.

Individual tickets are $150, and are available online at Wellness Foundation’s website (www.wfeh.org) and by phone at (631) 329-2590. (Tickets will not be sold at the door.)

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Geraldine Pluenneke has written for Newsday, the International Herald Tribune and other publications, and is writing a book on recovering America’s lost flavors and nutrients. She is hooked on Eli’s Health Loaf, toasted and thickly spread with chèvre.