Beat the Odds 2011

J.J. Abrams, Conan O’Brien, Star Trek Crew and More VIPs Help Youngsters “Beat the Odds” 2011


Except for the contemporary clothing – as opposed to their outfits from Stardate 2384 – Zoe Saldana, Zachary Quinto, John Cho and Anton Yelchin were easy to spot at the Beverly Hills Hotel. The most recent Enterprise crew members were among the many stars joining event co-chair J.J. Abrams, director of the 2009 “Star Trek,” and others for the twenty-first annual Beat the Odds Awards for the Children’s Defense Fund-California.

The Los Angeles branch of the national child advocacy organization, founded by Marian Wright Edelman, gives scholarships to youngsters who have succeeded despite tremendous adversity. Five were honored at the Dec. 1 event.

More celebrities in attendance were Jurnee Smollett of “The Great Debaters,” Elisabeth Shue of “Leaving Las Vegas” Alice Eve of “She’s Out of My League,” former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete and Holly Robinson Peete of “21 Jump Street,” Mary McCormack of “In Plain Sight,” Jeff Garlin of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and Conan O’Brien.

“You come here once and you get hooked,” O’Brien said during the reception. “You listen to these kid’s stories and you’re mesmerized.”  

“It’s been good for us, too,” he continued. “These kids have so much good-humor and enthusiasm. You talk to them and you feel their excitement.”

Liza O’Brien called the young honorees “inspiring,” and said, “I wish that I could have the fortitude, the energy, the optimism and intelligence that they exhibit at such a young age.”

Liza and Conan O’Brien served as co-chairs, along with J.J. Abrams and Katie McGrath, who introduced them to the cause. Among other co-chairs were Ruth-Ann Huvane, Kevin Huvane, Jurnee Smollett and Josiah Bell, Carol and Frank Biondi, Stacey and Charles King and Laura and Casey Wasserman.  Marian Wright Edelman, CDF’s president, gave the keynote speech.

Regardless of the celebrated names in the room, in his welcome to the audience, Abrams called the night’s honorees the real stars:  John Jimenez, Nancy Kannampuzha, Britany Lewis, Caylin Moore and Jeannette Wright, all of whom triumphed when the odds were against them

LaShanee King, a former award recipient began the program, telling the audience she is about to graduate from Columbia University with a B.A. degree and then go on to law school. (Bravo, LaShanee!)  

On a sartorial note, the event left us wondering if slimmer ties are in the fashion future for men.

On ascending the podium, Abrams said he was “singlehandedly bringing back the skinny tie.”

Zachary Quinto, Mr. Spock in “Star Trek,” spoke next, noting, “My tie is skinnier.” 


Photos, from top: Event co-chairs J.J. Abrams, Katie McGrath, Conan O’Brien and Liza O’Brien at Beat the Odds 2011; Zachary Quinto, of “Star Trek” and Heroes,” and Zoe Saldana, of “Star Trek” and “Avatar;” Children’s Defense Fund founder and president Marian Wright Edelman, third from right, with honorees from left, John Jimenez, Britanny Lewis, Nancy Kannampuzha, Jeannette Wright and Caylin Moore 



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Beat the Odds 2011

Published Dec. 2, 2011 – Ellen Olivier, Society News LA