Big Brothers Big Sisters Big Bash 2019 as inspiring as The Hunger Games

There were big heroes from all walks of life at the Big Brothers Big Sisters Big Bash for 2019, along with an inspiring message from the producer of The Hunger Games.

Hollywood icon Sherry Lansing and Hunger Games producer honoree Nina Jacobson (credit all photos by VinceBucci)

The legacy of the iconic visionary Walt Disney and music giant Meredith Willson (The Music Man) isn’t limited to the entertainment business. Their reach was extended to elevating generations of at-risk kids when Disney and Willson founded the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles (BBBSLA) in 1955. They supported the multitudes of volunteer mentors, “the Bigs” who are every day heroes from all walks of life. These mentors embraced the BBBSLA mission to be “Defenders of Potential” and helped “the Littles” achieve greatness.

That legacy was evident when the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles held their annual Big Bash Gala in Beverly Hills on November 15 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The BBBSLA honored Nina Jacobson, Founder and CEO of Color Force productions, and the producer of The Hunger Games, who said the inspiring Katniss Everdean character is much like the Big Sister role models in the BBBSLA organization.  Jacobson received the 2019 Sherry Lansing Award from another Big Sister role model, Hollywood icon Sherry Lansing herself.

Mike Green, 2019 BBBSLA Disney Man of the Year, and Rob Steinman

Entrepreneur Michael Green received his 2019 Walt Disney Man of the Year Award from actor-writer Rob Steinman who said Green has “the biggest heart I know.” Green said, “I believe that the collective sum of all of our efforts can truly make a difference.” Nina Baldonado, KNBC’s six-time Emmy-winning reporter, was honored as the 2019 BBBSLA Big Sister of the Year. Stunning actress Heather Hemmens (Hellcats, Roswell) presented her testimonial as a mentor and ‘Big Sister.’ And Anthony Lynn, Head Coach for the Los Angeles Chargers, accepted the inaugural Defender of Potential Award via a heartfelt video message since he was traveling to an away game.

Big Bash emcee Mike Shumard had six pairs of matches (paired Big mentors, with Little mentees) on stage with him to talk about what the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization means to them. It was a heartwarming moment hearing about their experiences that enriched the lives of both the ‘Bigs’ and the ‘Littles.’

Cynthia Bengtson, founder of Big Sisters Los Angeles, and Brock Moseley, BBBSLA Chair

BBBSLA Board Chair, Brock Moseley spoke of the importance that a Big Brother had on his own life. Moseley introduced the Vision for Tomorrow initiative bringing the ‘Bigs’ to youths  in underserved LA communities. Moseley recognized Cynthia Bengtson, who founded Big Sisters of Los Angeles in 1978, now part of the BBBSLA organization.

Sherry Lansing, former CEO of Paramount Pictures, introduced producer Nina Jacobson, as a trailblazer, saying “I’m her cheerleader from afar.” She noted that Katniss Everdean from the Hunger Games is an example of the smart fearless women characters that Jacobson creates, and that her films highlight diversity of race, gender and personality. Lansing continued, “Nina is an inaugural mentor in the Young Executive Program, developed by The Hollywood Reporter, in conjunction with BBBSLA.”

Accepting her honor, Jacobson noted, “You can’t be, what you can’t see.”  She believes that for young people, seeing someone who looks like them on screen, doing something new and different, is important and aspirational. Jacobson mentioned there was a surge of women’s involvement in archery after The Hunger Games movies. There was also a well documented rise in women involved in the forensic sciences after the CSI series debuted. Another example, Jacobson said the social response to Crazy Rich Asians, was positive and empowering for many Asian Americans. Jacobson was accompanied to the stage by Jasmine, her mentee in the Young Executive Fellowship program.

Heather Hemmens (right) with her ‘Little’ Denise

Actress, director and producer, Heather Hemmens spoke of her “20 years as a mentor success story.” She credits a personal mentor for showing her life’s possibilities. Hemmens grew up in the Maine woods, without electricity and indoor plumbing. “There was plenty of love, but food and clothes were a struggle,” she said.  A teacher took an interest in Hemmens, modeled a way to live and advance, and Hemmens “made the jump from surviving to thriving.”  Hemmen has been matched with her own ‘Little’ for four years. “We see our matches, we believe in them, we watch them rise. It changes them,” she said.

The ‘Bigs’ and the ‘Littles” change each others lives for the better. And the world becomes a better place.

For more about the BBBSLA programs visit

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.