The journey to the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation’s Magical Evening Gala on Thursday night was anything but magical for one of the event’s featured speakers — thanks to the MTA.
Clark’s Botanicals founder Francesco Clark — who was paralyzed at age 24 in an accident and created the natural skin-care line with his father — was meant to speak at the starry benefit for those with spinal cord injuries.
But when traffic was snarled in snow near his Westchester home, Clark, with his aide and an assistant, left his wheelchair-accessible van by a Starbucks and set out for the event at the Sheraton Times Square via MetroNorth.
After some confusion finding the right elevator at Grand Central because they were not clearly marked, Clark was helped by a stranger who gave him directions.
Once Clark made it to the 49th Street station, he was faced with an elevator that simply said “Out of Service,” with no alternative info.
Getting back on the train in his wheelchair, Clark headed up to 57th Street to be frustrated again. “They’re holding up the gala for me to go onstage,” Clark told us. “I’m four blocks away. I could turn around and go home, or I could suck it up and figure out a way to make it work. This is what people do in New York every day.”
Faced with three flights of stairs, he “offered three random strangers $20 each” to carry him. “They didn’t want to take any cash, but I gave it to them,” he said. “It was embarrassing, appalling and ironic that I was on my way” to the Reeve Foundation gala.
Waiting guests included Gayle King and singer Michelle Williams.
Finally making it to the stage with no time to change into a tux, the dashing Clark told the crowd, “It took four hours to get here tonight from a place that’s 14 miles north . . . I’m very angry about that.”
Then he joked, “Mainly because I don’t look good enough for everybody else in this room . . . I am wearing a T-shirt.” But “my mission tonight was to get here . . . My happiness is here.”
An MTA staffer who was coincidentally in the crowd later apologized to Clark, and offered him $100, but he said to donate it to the foundation.
Clark took a wheelchair-accessible Uber home.