Clean Slate Living

By Paula Gottlieb Herman

Have you ever wanted a real life do-over? A way to wipe the slate clean? A way to re-write your tomorrow? Last night, we had the privilege of covering the 5th Annual Suit & Sneaker Gala for Clean Slate Living where all of those concepts were embraced.

For those not familiar with Clean Slate Living, they are a Long Island non-profit that provides high energy interactive programs geared for children, teens, and young adults. Bullying, toxic relationships, and dependency problems are among the topics they address at schools, universities, detention, and recovery centers. They heavily reinforce the message that we are all worthy of respect and can re-write our own stories.

The Suit & Sneaker Gala was held in Smithtown at the Smithtown Gospel Tabernacle. One hundred and thirty guests dined on a lovely 4-course sit-down dinner created by Clean Slate Living member, Jason Newell. Our meal started off with a bowl of savory tomato bisque soup topped with a parmesan crisp, then a wedge salad with crumbled blue cheese & bacon, and a blueberry balsamic dressing. The main course included succulent Brazilian grilled chicken strips in a cilantro lime marinade, with sides of yellow rice and sweet potato puree. The fourth and final course was an amazing riff on the keynote speaker’s name, a delicious strawberry shortcake with cannoli filling, mini chocolate chips, and diced strawberries.

The keynote speaker at the gala was indeed Darryl Strawberry! In his 17-year-career with Major League Baseball, he played for the Mets, Dodgers, Giants, and Yankees. Knowing that we would be interviewing him, I did some research on his life both past and present. The thread that ran through many of the articles and videos I saw while he was playing baseball, was unfulfilled potential. I also found out that he and I were born just 8 days apart. Darryl Strawberry’s life had many ups and downs personally and professionally, but for the last 14 years, he has completely turned it around. These days he is happily married, thriving as an ordained Christian pastor, author, and owner of drug treatment centers. What an inspiration to us all!

Since the theme of the night was suits and sneakers, my husband Michael and I dressed the part. I wore a brown pantsuit with a leopard blouse and brown leather sneakers with zippers. He wore a blue suit with blue topsiders. But, the award for the coolest “kicks” went to Darryl Strawberry. His sneakers had a fabulous black and white geometric pattern.

Before dinner was served, we headed to the Clean Slate Living’s step and repeat backdrop and interviewed founder, Matt Pisani and his wife, Melissa. The work they are doing is really important. Kids and young adults are thirsting to hear their messages that they are worthy. And just last month, Clean Slate Living had the honor of ringing the Nasdaq Stock Market’s Opening Bell.

Impactful speeches, raffle prizes, video highlights from past programs, and a live acapella music performance, framed the Suit & Sneaker Gala. But, the true highlight of the night was seeing 6’6” Darryl Strawberry emerge onto the stage dressed in a Clean Slate Living t-shirt with their slogan, #RewriteTomorrow, and blow us all away with his candor, humility, and messages on how to live a more fulfilled life. He so connected with the audience, and after his speech, he chose to stick around and shake hands, pose for photos, and make himself available to anyone who wanted to meet him.

When the time was right, we were escorted to the green room to do the interview with Darryl. We set up two cameras, our “Cooking With Stars” camera manned by my husband Michael Herman and the other by Ed Shin of “Village Connection Magazine.” I really enjoyed the time we spent together chatting about family legacies, tools to help kids make the right choices, etc. Darryl was warm, articulate, and a joy to interview. And at the end of our interview, I made sure we posed for photos with our sneakers. I hope you enjoy watching our video!

For more information on Clean Slate Living, you can visit them at The next big event in the works, is their first 5K Run on September 15th in Suffolk County. They will be raising money to fight against the heroin epidemic.

Clean Slate Living 5th Annual Suit & Sneaker Gala

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