Pop.Earth honors Manhasset man at annual barbecue fundraiser

Celebrity chef Franklin Becker speaks to the crowd at Pop.Earth's annual 'Cue Autism Celebrity Chef Barbeque at Oheka Castle on June 24. (Photo courtesy of Pop.Earth)

A Manhasset resident was honored last month for his contributions to a local nonprofit that focuses on holistic options for those with autistic spectrum disorder.

Chris Savino of Manhasset was honored at Pop.Earth’s second annual ‘Cue Autism Celebrity Chef Barbecue, hosted this year at Oheka Castle.

Pop.Earth founder Debbie Stone said the five-hour fundraiser raised about $165,000 and was attended by about 500 people to devour the barbecue fare from 24 celebrity chefs, including lobster macaroni and cheese, smoked brisket and Korean pork belly tacos.

Savino, a former Pop.Earth board member, has always been invested in the cause, Stone said.

“It was a no-brainer to honor him,” Stone said. “He’s always done work for children and always had a special place in his heart for Pop.Earth and autism. When we looked at honorees, he was the first person to pop up.”

Pop.Earth, headquartered in Westbury, hosts events throughout the year, but Stone said most of the events are in the fall and in Manhattan.

The mission of Pop.Earth is to provide holistic health and wellness options to people with autism and other developmental disorders throughout the special needs, disabilities and inclusive communities at little to no cost.

Sponsors for the event included True Vodka, Sam Adams, Notorious Pink rosé and Double Good Popcorn as well as title sponsor BTIG. JetBlue also provided lawn games for the event, which was held on the sprawling lawn around the castle.

The event also featured an auction with items such as a trip to Spain, Stone said.

Stone said this was the first event by the organization where people with special needs were invited to attend an upscale fundraiser, unlike the Hop with Pop events that Stone said are geared toward the community.

“The good thing about Pop.Earth is no one is ever turned away from our programs based on an inability to pay,” Stone said. “Everyone is welcome, and I like to say we work from ages 5 to 65. We work with every age group, primarily the over 21 age group because they age out of state-run programs and there is a definite deficit in services there. It’s important for me that we’re able to step in and fill that.”

Reach reporter Amelia Camurati by email at [email protected], by phone at 516-307-1045, ext. 215, or follow her on Twitter @acamurati.

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