Of Eagles and Angels

Like so many event organizers last year, Rich Berlin canceled his get-together after 9/11. "It just didn't seem appropriate to hold it," he says of the yearly fall golf tournament he holds to benefit Harlem RBI, a nonprofit that organizes softball, baseball, and after-school enrichment programs for inner-city youth.

That's an understatement, since brokerage house Cantor Fitzgerald was Berlin's main corporate sponsor as well as the source of the idea for the fund-raiser. As the world learned on 9/11, 658 Cantor employees died in the World Trade Center attack, and since most of Berlin's players were Cantor guys, he lost anywhere from 20 to 40 golfers that day.

Forced to cancel, Berlin immediately wrote to all living participants offering them the choice of getting back their greenbacks or donating them to Harlem RBI or Cantor itself. "A lot of people did both," he notes, "and nobody asked for their money back."

But this September 23, Berlin was back at the Fairview Country Club in Greenwich, CT, pressing the flesh and chasing the dimpled ball. As events go, he claims the tourney's a cinch to organize: "The club handles the nuts and bolts; our main job is getting people there and taking care of them." And as Harlem RBI's executive director, Berlin meets all the players and sells them a bit on the charity, "not too much, since they're there to have fun, but enough so they'll take a call from me later."

Though Berlin wasn't able to get replacement players, Cantor committed as much money as in years past "and people liked the game being smaller -- it was cozier and they felt they were part of a more select group." Nor was the mood somber, he claims: "We took a moment to acknowledge the Cantor folks, and hopefully people realized how fortunate they were to be there to support this cause."