Galas helping kids on the path to brighter futures

There have been a plethora of charity events in Hollywood and around Los Angeles that have put the emphasis on healthy lives for youngsters and fostering the love and caring that every child should have. The following are among the outstanding organizations and extraordinary people who help kids find a path to a brighter future.

Puppy love at the JDRF Imagine Gala

Usher at the Imagine Gala (photo GettyImages for JDRF)

Imagine an adorable puppy stealing the show from all the stars and VIPs at the 2017 JDRF Imagine Gala on April 22, 2017. The fundraiser for T1D research (Type 1 diabetes, also called juvenile diabetes) brought out music superstar Usher who said, “I’m a ‘T1 Dad,’ because my nine-year-old son has Type 1 diabetes and I’m here to support the cause and help the battle, because we are our children’s protectors.” Usher showed his unwavering support by getting into a high stakes bidding war with a very philanthropic fellow who also wanted to take home the adorable puppy up for auction. The final bid from Usher was $50,000 for the Chihuahua-Terrier mix, and then he gifted the sweet little puppy to the fellow and his family who were thrilled.

That’s how Usher entertained everyone in the Beverly Hilton’s ballroom, but much more entertainment came from Andra Day who launched the event singing “Rise Up.” The gala’s finale was a high-energy performance by Hailee Steinfeld who got the crowd singing along to her pop hit “Love Myself.” KTLA’s Frank Buckley and Pierre Charmasson were the spirited auctioneers.

Usher with singer Hailee Steinfeld (photo by MargieBarron)

Honors were also given out at the 14th annual gala. Max Harris was the 2017 JDRF honoree who was presented his award by Holly Robinson Peete (For Peete’s Sake). Max is the son of famed music producer James “Jimmy Jam” and Lisa Harris, and twin brother to model Bella Harris who called Max her “hero,” because of the strength he shows dealing with his T1D. The entire Harris family has been dedicated to supporting JDRF in the quest to find a cure.

There was also a tribute for the late Rabbi Harvey J. Fields, honored posthumously with the JDRF’s Spirit Award. In attendance were Austin Basis (Beauty & the Beast), Beau Bonness (Casual), Jillian Rose Reed (Awkward), AnnaLynne McCord (The Night Shift), model Kaia Gerber, singer Marty Shannon, boxer Sugar Ray Leonard, and Dana Walden, Chairman 20th Century Fox Television.

“Imagine a world without type 1 diabetes,” that’s what Brec Bassinger, star of the Nickelodeon series Bella and the Bulldogs, said she wants, “along with more happiness in this world.” The inspiring 17-year-old actress is proof that living with T1D doesn’t mean you can’t be healthy and active and pursue your dreams.

Impact Awards gala

Laurence Fishburne, Nina Shaw and Nick Cannon at the Impact Awards gala

Another event that helped the pursuit of brighter futures was the annual Impact Awards gala presented by The Independent School Alliance on April 20 at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. The event honored outstanding members of the Los Angeles community supporting educational opportunities. The high energy and always fun Nick Cannon was the emcee, and there was a performance by The Voice singer Judith Hill, who was featured in the Oscar and Grammy-winning documentary 20 Feet From Stardom.

Lawrence Fishburne presented the Impact Award to entertainment lawyer Nina L. Shaw, describing her as “one of the most powerful women in Hollywood, she is strong enough to know that true power has nothing to do with brute strength and everything to do with doing what’s right.” Kevin Demoff, Los Angeles Rams Executive Vice President of Football Operations/Chief Operating Officer; and Mary Beth Barry, Director of Admissions, Brentwood Lower School were also honored. Brian Laibow, Mira Lee, and Josh Hamilton co-chaired the event that started with the Brentwood Jazz Band greeting guests.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of LA

Nate Berkus, Nancy Daniels and Jeremiah Brent (photo by MargieBarron)

The Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles (BBBSLA) hosted its annual Accessories for Success Spring Scholarship Luncheon on April 23 in Beverly Hills at The Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Nancy Daniels, the president and general manager of the TLC network was honored with the “Excellence in Mentoring Award,” presented by TLC’s popular design mavens Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent. Stephen Galloway, executive editor, features, for The Hollywood Reporter was honored with the “Innovator Award,” because he created the BBBSLA’s Women In Entertainment Mentorship Program.

Actress and fashion icon Amber Valletta returned as host, producer-actress Mindy Kaling spoke, and actress Kelly Sullivan introduced a special fashion show. It featured “Bigs” and “Littles” modeling stylish outfits and accessories they selected from Goodwill stores. As they rocked the runway, it was noted that each ensemble had a maximum budget of $30. It was awesome to see such inexpensive chic. Goodwill supports BBBSLA, and it’s a fun way to teach kids to shop on a budget.

Participating “Bigs” in the fashion show include:  TNT’s The Last Ship co-stars Travis Van Winkle and Jodie Turner Smith; KNBC-4 newscaster Kim Baldonado; Beachbody celebrity trainer Joel Freeman, and “Los Angeles Big Brother of the Year,” police officer Ryan Caplette, a member of the LAPD “Bigs In Blue” program introduced last year.

Scholarships were presented to more than 100 BBBSLA high school seniors and college students. Among the VIPs proudly cheering them were BBBSLA president and CEO Tiffany Siart, board chair and luncheon co-chair Laura Lizer, Rebecca Campbell, Nancy Taylor, Nina Shaw, Kate Nichols, Sandra Stern, Nicole Lorey, and former Paramount chief Sherry Lansing, who is a BBBSLA Trustee.

Sherry Lansing and Stephen Galloway teamed on the new book “Leading Lady: Sherry Lansing and the Making of A Hollywood Groundbreaker,” and after the luncheon they stayed to signed the book for all the “Bigs” and “Littles” who are sure to be inspired by Lansing’s groundbreaking life.

Extraordinary Families Gala

Gary Newman and Lee Daniels at the Extraordinary Families Gala (photo VinceBucci)

Extraordinary Families hosted a gala April 26 to honor people who have put the spotlight on families and foster care. Award winning producer Lee Daniels (movies The Butler and Precious, and Empire on Fox) received the Visionary Award from Gary Newman, chairman of Fox Television. Daniels’ latest Fox series Star focuses on young singers who have spent their childhood in and out of foster homes, and he was very emotional when he talked about raising his brother’s two children left on his doorstep.

And the NBC series This Is Us was honored with the Luminary Award presented by Jennifer Salke, President, NBC Entertainment, to executive producer Jess Rosenthal. He’ll share the award with creator Dan Fogelman for their show which poignantly elevates the issue of adoption in a realistic and profound way.

Extraordinary Families is a nonprofit that supports foster families and is dedicated to improving the lives of children and families in child welfare, helping kids find “forever homes.” The evening at the Beverly Hilton also honored the late legendary music manager and philanthropist Howard Kaufman with the Champion Award; and foster parents Kim Kopp and Lisa McFann with the Sylvia Fogelman Founder’s Award.

Star’s star Brittany O’Grady and celebrity journalist Margie Barron

Inside Edition’s Victoria Recaño hosted the event and special performances by India Carney (The Voice) and Haley Reinhart (American Idol) delighted everyone, especially the two fabulous singing stars of Lee Daniels’ Star, Brittany O’Grady and Jude Demorest who were inspired by the work done by Extraordinary Families paving the way for brighter futures.


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 have been half of the husband & wife writing team Frank & Margie Barron, who had written together for various entertainment and travel publications for more than 38 years.