In our second installment of Inspired Moms, brought to you by ViaCord, we honor Shoshanna Lonstein Gruss. The New York designer (of fabulous swimwear and dresses) is mother to 8-year-old Sienna—and 8-month-old twins. We’re impressed by her passion for the Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), a charity she has been working with since 2007. So we chatted with Shoshanna about fashion, motherhood, and her inspiring work for pediatric cancer.
StrollerTraffic: Tell us a little about your charity.
Shoshanna Lonstein Gruss: The Society of MSKCC is a volunteer organization dedicated to supporting cancer research, promoting the well-being of patients, and providing public education on the early prevention, detection, and treatment of cancer. I’m currently chairman of the Associates Committee, which was formed in 1984 to introduce a younger generation to the Society.
ST: How and when (and why?) did you become involved?
SLG: I was asked by some close friends to join the Associates Committee in 2007. When I found out about the work they were doing, I jumped at the chance to help.
ST: We’d love to hear more about your personal role within the organization.
SLG: When I first joined the Associates Committee, I was able to volunteer at the hospital and felt a strong connection to the patients and their families. I wanted them to know that they were not in this alone. I have done everything I can to use my resources and connections to help our program with MSKCC.
ST: And how, exactly, is the Society affecting the lives of patients?
SLG: We host three major events each year: the Fall Party in September, the Winter lunch in January, and then our family party—the Bunny Hop—in the spring. The funds we raise are used to support programs in the Department of Pediatrics, as well as various initiatives that have included the Clown Care Program and the Pediatric Housing Endowment, which pays for overnight stays when children and their families come from out-of-town for treatment at MSKCC and are unable to afford this expense themselves. We also help host entertaining events for hospital patients, like the annual patient art show and a Pediatric Prom, which can help boost spirits and take patients’ minds off of their treatment for a period of time.
ST: It all sounds amazing. And emotional. And incredibly time-consuming. How do you fit it all in—the parenting, the designing, the philanthropy?
SLG: The biggest sacrifice I make is on my sleep. I wake early everyday, around 5am, to have some me time. So I can read my papers, have breakfast, maybe work out or do a little online shopping—and plot out my day. I’ve learned with very careful planning and intense organization, I can be the kind of mom I want to be, and the kind of business woman I want to be.
ST: We hear you. Sleep is for the weak. LOL. But seriously, it’s so impressive—and inspiring. Any other tips for new moms struggling with the work-family dichotomy?
SLG: I think the biggest thing is that I give myself a break. I have my commitments, and I honor those, but the one thing I remember is the only people I do not want to ever disappoint are my husband and children. They are my utmost priority. I never want to regret missing one moment with them, and I know as long as I take care of them, I never will. All the rest of the stuff in life, will always be there, but you only get times like this once.
ST: That’s such a nice way to put it. And a good reminder for all of us. Now, tell us about Sienna. She’s just too cute.
SLG: Sienna is into everything—she is a renaissance woman. She just returned from a week of ice hockey camp in Minnesota, and she will spend the rest of the summer riding and playing drums, not to mention swimming, fishing, and boogie boarding. Her greatest gift though is her heart; she is the kindest person I’ve ever encountered. Not to mention hilarious. Also, the best big sister on the planet.
ST: Ice hockey camp? Drums? She sounds like such a cool kid. What about fashion? Did she inherit your style gene?
SLG: Sienna’s got her own unique sense of style. She has a tomboy sensibility, with a bohemian vibe. She is just one of those people who looks good without trying. Anything she puts on looks great, but she is not interested in dressing like anyone else—and I let her wear whatever she wants, especially since she wears a uniform to school everyday. She comes to my office every spring to design her own bathing suits, and the design team and I are always in awe of what she puts together. When I do shop for her, I love finding those unique items that I know she is going to be into. A few weeks ago we went to see “PUNK: Chaos to Couture” at the Met, and she was fascinated. She really understands that fashion is a way to express yourself.
ST: And . . . what about the babies?
SLG: The babies are a dream. So delicious, and sweet, and they make me laugh and smile all day long. My skin dances when I think about them.
ST: Sigh. So, what are you and your cool daughter and your delicious babies doing for the rest of the summer?
SLG: Enjoying the moment. Not making too many plans. No travel this year, just long, fun-filled days with some working, reading, beach combing, s‘more making, swimming, and firefly catching. A few grownup margarita-filled dinners with my hubby, too!
ST: Sounds divine. Enjoy it!