Shareef and Al Malnik Make a Wish
by dan sweeney
Did your experience redesigning The Forge have an effect on how you viewed it?
SM: No question about it. The Forge is 43 years old, and we just recently underwent a total reinvention. We kind of redid it in the early ’90s. But two years ago, we closed the restaurant and gutted it, positioning it to hopefully be relevant for another 20 years. So I think I recognized that there was a problem with the ball at a time when other people may not have, because I was sensitive to it.
How did your father first become involved in the charity?
SM: Lee Brian Schrager was the chairman of the ball 17 years ago, when it began. And he called me up (this was the first one) and said, “You have to come to the ball, we’d love to honor your dad.” So he and my stepmother, Nancy Malnik, were honored, and from that he fell in love with the charity, and he’s been a lifetime benefactor to it since. I became involved because I was asked to, firstly. My dad and Nancy both asked, and I believed in the charity, so I thought I would try my best and see if I could do a good job.
How much planning is involved in each year’s gala?
SM: We start discussing it two weeks after the previous one, going over what worked and what didn’t, and how we can change things to make it better for the next year.
How much does the event generate for Make-A-Wish?
SM: We’re calling this year’s [event] our “$10 million ball.” Over 17 years, we’ve made $9.6 million.
How important is that money to the South Florida Make-A-Wish chapter’s financial health?
SM: Last year, we granted more wishes than any other in the US. This ball generates approximately 35 percent of all the money that goes to granting those wishes in a year, and it does it in a single night. I am personally putting out what I call “the chairman’s challenge”—I’m reaching out to some of our most important community leaders in our city to donate, so that I know the ball is completely covered. With 20 people donating $25,000 a year for five years, everything else the ball makes during the evening will be gravy.