Worthy Causes Have Fun Galas

Worthy Causes Have Fun Galas

Walt Disney Studios’ Rich Ross & Director Kenny Ortega honored at posh events

At the Fulfillment Fund’s 2011 Stars Gala at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, honoree and chairman of The Walt Disney Studios Rich Ross was beaming.

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Why? Because many of the brightest stars in the Disney family showed up to honor him. Everyone from Selena Gomez to Eva Longoria. But the favorite pair of the night was Jason Segel and Kermit the Frog sharing the hosting duties.

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Jason Segel was really funny, but you might expect that from the co-writer, executive producer and star of Disney’s new The Muppets movie. His film’s amphibian co-star Kermit the Frog also showed off his sharp humor, saying the best way to honor Ross was to plug his movie.

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Equally entertaining was the live auction conducted by the hysterically comic Sinbad, who enlisted special guest Eva Longoria to help him raise some money for the kids. He tried auction off just about everything he could think of, and even tried to get $200,000 for a date with Eva. But when she said, “Just a date, no sex,” there were no takers.

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The star-studded evening featured a live performance by the theatrical cast of Disney’s classic The Lion King. More than 900 guests attended the event, co-chaired by mega-producer Jerry Bruckheimer, CAA managing partner Kevin Huvane, DreamWorks CEO Stacey Snider, and Disney Media Network co-chair and Disney-ABC Television Group president Anne Sweeney.

The Founders’ Humanitarian Award was presented to Madeleine and Tom Sherak. And one of the classiest men in Hollywood, Sidney Poitier was also on hand.

All supported the evening’s worthy cause. The Fulfillment Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to helping promising yet under-resourced Los Angeles students graduate from high school and complete college.

“At the Fulfillment Fund, we help Los Angeles students overcome obstacles to pursuing the dream of a life-changing college education,” said Andrea Cockrum, CEO of the Fulfillment Fund.

Big Bash for Big Brothers & Big Sisters

There was another wonderful night for The Big Brothers Big Sisters organization with their annual Big Bash. It celebrated making a big difference and changing young lives for the better.

There are always extraordinary honorees. This year is was Kenny Ortega, the award-winning producer-director-choreographer who has the In The Heights film and a Dirty Dancing remake getting ready.

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Ortega said he was happy that his friend Jennifer Grey was making the presentation. Kenny was the choreographer for Jennifer’s iconic role in Dirty Dancing, long before she won the 11th season of Dancing with the Stars.

A current competitor on Dancing with the Stars, Ricki Lake was the evening’s special host. The Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles (BBBSLA) drew other luminaries to its Rising Stars Gala at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Tyra Banks introduced Nancy Josephson, partner with the WME Entertainment company, who received the Sherry Lansing Award.

Sarah Purcell honored Sandy Bilson, BBBSLA board member and guild president, who received the Legacy Award. Honorary Gala Chairs included Roy P. and Sheri Disney, plus Melanie Cook, also Steve Soboroff and Sherry Lansing (who sent greetings from Florence, Italy).

Last year’s honoree Anne Sweeney, the head of Disney Media Networks, was there talking about her experience becoming a Big Sister mentoring a Little Sister.

Another Big Sister, Pam Dawber told the crowd that the awards recognize individual who are inspiring and positive role models for young people. Among the notables attending were Dancing with the Stars pro Derek Hough, delightful actress Jane Graves (The Muppets), Kate Linder, Charlene Amoia, Markie Post, and Leonard Maltin.

And Lionsgate Films co-COO and president Joe Drake was there, and got a shout-out from Ortega who thanked Lionsgate for supporting the event’s big cause.

When Ortega accepted the 2011 Walt Disney Man of the Year Award, he started out by thanking the Walt Disney company for their incredible association with the films and TV productions they’ve done together. Then he shared a story about a connection with Disney that went back much further.

Ortega explained, “When my father came out of World War II he was invited by Walt Disney to come out to Los Angeles to study to be an animator. He was the son of a family that had 14 children, and he couldn’t leave his parents because they needed him. So tonight I want to accept this on behalf of my father. It’s a dream come true for our family.”

He gave a nod to the mentors and teachers in his life saying “the men and women who took time out of their lives to nourish mine, to guide and steer and enlighten me along my way. Mentors like Gene Kelly, Raul Julia, Michael Jackson, Dawn Steele, and my father.” His mother Madeline Ortega was beaming when he spoke.

Of course the man who gave us the Disney Channel’s High School Musical franchise had to talk about how he and his talented cast “were able to have set visits and premiere parties that helped fulfilled wishes of some very brave children. This was only possible because of the loving support from the Walt Disney Company. I hope the years ahead keep us in each others company, and that our work together will continue to inspire young people to believe and act on the words of Walt Disney– ‘If you can dream it, you can do it.’ And I believe that is what Big Brothers Big Sisters is all about.”


Margie Barron has written for a wide variety of outlets including Gannett newspapers, Nickelodeon, Tiger Beat and 16 Magazine, Fresh!, Senior Life, Production Update, airline magazines, etc. Margie is also proud to be half of the husband and wife writing team Frank & Margie Barron, who have written together for various entertainment and travel publications for more than 30 years.

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