Preview: UNICEF Ball 2014

GhadaIraniinJordan5 by UNICEF
UNICEF Ball to Honor Michael Douglas and Regional Board Chair Ghada Irani

Matt Damon and Jerry Weintraub to Emcee; Kristin Chenoweth Set to Perform


Given Michael Douglas and Ghada Irani as honorees, Matt Damon and Jerry Weintraub as the night’s emcees, and Kristin Chenoweth to perform, the biennial UNICEF Ball, presented by Baccarat on  Tues., Jan. 14 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, is shaping up to be even more successful than usual.

Considering the night’s lineup, plus a powerhouse event committee, it comes as no surprise that business leaders, philanthropists, celebrities and more are expected to be out in force – and in formal attire – as the UNICEF Ball is one of L.A.’s most glamorous social affairs.

Together again for the gala, both Douglas and Damon are Golden Globe Best Actor nominees for portraying Liberace and his lover in “Behind the Candelabra.”  Weintraub is a major film producer, former CEO of United Artists and the subject of the documentary, “His Way.” The original Glinda in Broadway’s “Wicked,” Chenoweth is a Tony and Emmy Award winner. 

In a telephone interview, longtime board chair of the US Fund of UNICEF’s Southern California region, Ghada Irani said she has been involved with UNICEF for 18 years. (Irani’s husband, Ray Irani, is former CEO of Occidental Petroleum.)

GhadaIraniinJordan2 by UNICEF

Born in Syria and active in the cause, she just has returned from Amman, Jordan, where she visited the nearby Za’atari refugee camp. The camp is populated by more than 120,000 Syrians, many of them children, who fled their country since the start of the civil war.

According to Irani, UNICEF is opening schools and providing the children with clean water, medicine, clothing and blankets to ward off the cold. Although people associate the Middle East with hot weather and deserts, she reported cold temperatures and snow.

“I’m a mother and grandmother and I care about children here and abroad,” she said. “The Syrian children are now suffering so much. It’s so sad when you see a child suffering, when here we have a really good life.”  Irani said it is her goal to educate our children to the plight of others and engage them with the world’s children.

According to Southern California’s regional managing director Anne Kelly, UNICEF is in every developing country, needs with programs to keep young children from dying from preventable diseases, to give school-age children a quality primary school education and to help older children prevent unwanted pregnancy, know their rights and understand their country’s problems.

As UNICEF targets children with the greatest needs, this year’s ball proceeds will go to children from Syria and the Philippines.

GhadaIraniinJordanwith Tea Leoni-photo by Lucy Lyon
Also expected are Anna Kendrick, James Marsden, Sylvester Stallone, Sasha Alexander, David Spade, Laura Marano, Sidney Poitier and UNICEF Ambassador Alyssa Milano and the rapper Nas, a UNICEF Supporter.

Lori and Michael Milken, Susie Ekins and Jerry Weintraub, and Robert Day will co-chair the event. Lead benefactors are Tamar and Bob Manoukian, and leadership chairs are Sharon and Gray Davis, Julie Chen and Leslie Moonves, Jamie McCourt, Jerry Perenchio and Sandra Lee.


Top & Center Photos: Ghada Irani at the Za’atari refugee camp near Amman, Jordan, where UNICEF has set up a school for Syrian children and provided clean water, medicine, food and clothing; Irani is an honoree at the upcoming UNICEF Ball 2014 (photos, courtesy of UNICEF)

Bottom Photo: Visiting the Za’atari camp, from left, UNICEF Ambassador Tea Leoni of “Deep Impact,” UNICEF Ball 2014 honoree Ghada Irani and US Fund for UNICEF president and CEO Caryl Stern (photo, Lucy Lyon, courtesy of UNICEF)



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UNICEF Ball 2014

Published Jan. 5, 2014 – Ellen Olivier, Society News LA