Children’s Defense Fund Beat the Odds

Children's Defense Fund-California Hosts 23rd Annual Beat The Odds Awards - Show
Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Garner, Conan O’Brien, Jeff Garlin, Columbus Short, J.J. Abrams, Kevin Huvane, Marian Wright Edelman Salute Students Who “Beat the Odds” 

 

An A-list of Hollywood stars, entertainment industry VIPs and other notables turned up at the Beverly Hills Hotel Dec. 5 to honor five students who “Beat the Odds,” and in doing so, the affair raised $1 million for the Children’s Defense Fund – California.  

For details, check out my story online in the Los Angeles Times, or look in print in the Dec. 8 Sunday Image section. More details and more pictures of the honorees, celebrities and committee chairs are on this page and in the gallery below.

Celebrities included Matt Damon and Luciana Barroso, Kevin Nealon and Susan Yeagley, Aimee Garcia of “Dexter,” John Cho of “Star Trek,” Katie Lowes of “Scandal,” “Sleepy Hollow” executive producer Mark Goffman, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Minnesota Senator Al Franken. On the notable list of event co-chairs were Katie McGrath and J.J. Abrams, Jurnee Smollett-bell and Josiah Bell, Carol and Frank Biondi, Liza and Conan O’Brien, Reese Witherspoon and Jim Toth, Laura and Casey Wasserman, Ruth-Ann Huvane and Kevin Huvane.

Children's Defense Fund-California Hosts 23rd Annual Beat The Odds Awards - Red Carpet
As an admirer of Matt Damon’s films, I enjoyed the opportunity to talk with the “Bourne” star, who said he came at the invitation of friends, naming Abrams among them. I only wish I’d thought to ask him about Nelson Mandela, as he starred as the rugby captain in “Invictus,” and no doubt would have met South Africa’s remarkable president, who died earlier on the day of the dinner.

(My husband and I have since re-watched the brilliant film, for which Damon, as well as Morgan Freeman as Mandela, were nominated for Academy Awards.)

Mandela was so much on everyone’s minds that night, that keynote speaker Marian Wright Edelman concluded her talk by acknowledging “the passing of an extraordinary, great human being’s life,” praising his momentous accomplishments in ending apartheid and transforming his country.

Past honoree Maria Burgos also spoke, as did all of this year’s award recipients: Marilyn Bravo, Alexis Metcalfe, Stephanie Fabian, Alezaihvia Melendez and Jerry Gonzalez. individual videos showed their difficult struggles and vast against-the-odds achievements.

Before presenting the night’s final award, Reese Witherspoon said she loved the organization and this particular event because “it is truly all about the kids,” adding, “For example, many of you will notice, if you look at the back of your chair, there is no gift bag hanging there. Nor will you find one waiting for you at the valet.”

Children's Defense Fund-California Hosts 23rd Annual Beat The Odds Awards - Red Carpet
Instead, she said, to audience applause, “We spent our time approaching colleagues, sponsors and friends to create five gigantic gift baskets for our honorees.”

 

Top photo: Event co-chairs Kevin Huvane, left, and J.J. Abrams asked for donations “right now” at the Children’s Defense Fund Beat the Odds awards dinner, a big success with proceeds tabulated at $1 million  (Photo by Charley Gallay/ Getty Images for Children’s Defense Fund-California)

Second photo: From left, Matt Damon, his wife Luciana Barroso, and event co-chair J.J. Abrams at the Children’s Defense Fund Beat the Odds dinner  (Photo by Charley Gallay/ Getty Images for Children’s Defense Fund-California)

Third photo: Three key participants, from left, Jennifer Garner presented an award; Children’s Defense Fund president Marian Wright Edelman gave the keynote speech, and event co-chair Reese Witherspoon talked of her love for the organization and the Children’s Defense Fund Beat the Odds dinner (Photo by Jason Merritt/ Getty Images for Children’s Defense Fund-California)

Fourth photo: Event co-chair Carol Biondi in beige, with the exceptional student honorees from left, Jerry Gonzalez, Alexis Metcalfe, Stephanie Fabian, Alezaihvia Melendez and Marilyn Bravo at the Children’s Defense Fund Beat the Odds dinner (Photo by Jason Merritt/ Getty Images for Children’s Defense Fund-California)

 

ALSO IN SOCIETY NEWS LOS ANGELES: 

Reese Witherspoon, Michelle Monaghan, Elisabeth Shue, Zoe Saldana, Celebrate Teens Who “Beat the Odds” 2012

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

“Rivals United for a Kure” Gala Honors Legendary USC and UCLA Coaches John Robinson and Terry Donahue

Children's Defense Fund-California Hosts 23rd Annual Beat The Odds Awards - Red Carpet
Kate Burton Stars as Frankenstein’s Author, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, in a Brilliant Reading of “Shadows Round the Moon”

Dance Aficionados Join Matthew Bourne For His Inventive New Time Traveling, Vampire Laden Sleeping Beauty

Julie Bowen, Jason Bateman, Lisa Kudrow, Jessica Capshaw, Dan Bucatinsky Among Families at PS Arts Express Yourself 2013

Robert Pattinson, Beth Behrs, Adam Shankman, Dermot Mulroney, Mike White Lend Support to the Go Campaign

Sharon Stone Presents MOCA Awards to Artists Lita Albuquerque, Nancy Rubins, Helen Pashgian and Betye Saar

Star-Studded TrevorLIVE Benefit to Honor Jane Lynch and Feature Kathy Griffin as Host

Elizabeth Banks, Jim Rome Among Actors, Sports Figures and Others at the Breeders’ Cup

NYU Tisch School Heads West to Honor Oliver Stone and Liza Chasin at “Scene Change L.A.”

Amber Valletta, Gelila Assefa Puck and Wolfgang Puck Honor Franca Sozzani at the Dream for Future Africa Gala

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Children’s Defense Fund Beat the Odds

Published Dec. 7, 2013 – Ellen Olivier, Society News LA