When your parent support group includes Steven Spielberg and his family, it's likely that your fundraisers will be something special.
A Wednesday event for Crossroads founder Paul Cummins and his nonprofit, the Coalition for Engaged Education, was exactly that. The aim was to raise $100,000 for Cummins' efforts, which include a summer school program in the city of Lennox to assist 20 teenagers who have been identified as "highly likely to drop out" of high school. With donations still being counted on Thursday, the Spielbergs had raised $200,000. The finally tally is expected to reach $250,000.
It's no wonder, considering the A-list crowd that turned out for the gathering, termed the First Annual Poetic Justice Celebration. Supporters included Gwyneth Paltrow, Maya Rudolph, Jonah Hill, Henry Winkler and son Max Winkler, Sally Field, Laura Dern, Sir Ken Robinson, Andy Samberg, BOND agency co-founder Luke Silver-Greenberg, Tyrese Gibson, state Assembly candidate Prophet Walker and the Spielbergs (Steven, Kate Capshaw-Spielberg, Jessica Capshaw Gavin, Sasha Spielberg and Theo Spielberg.)
In keeping with the "Poetic Justice" theme, guests gathered at the Herb Alpert Educational Village in Santa Monica to read selections of poetry, which were made more powerful by the fact that the event had fallen on the evening of Maya Angelou's death.
Calling Angelou "the epitome of feminine strength and creativity," Paltrow, a Crossroads graduate, read the poet's "Still I Rise." Field, meanwhile, read Angelou poem "Phenomenal Woman."
"What an amazing woman she was," Field said of Angelou. "These words of her, I have to honestly tell you I can't totally wear. Not really. Not yet. Maybe someday I'll be close. I'll just picture her."
Jonah Hill took the stage with Henry Winkler to read Dr. Seuss's "Oh the Places You'll Go." Before starting the reading, Hill told the crowd: "Literally all of my best friends and the people I care about and love are in this room. …We all know each other because of the opportunities we had and the hand we were dealt in life. To be up here with my best friend's dad and to see two of my best friends pour their heart and soul into tonight, without any ounce of falseness, this is a totally beautiful cause."
Spielberg chose to read Irish poet John O'Donohue's blessing, "For a Leader." The words fit the mood of the evening: "May you know the wisdom of deep listening. The healing of wholesome words. The encouragement of the appreciative gaze. The decorum of held dignity. The springtime edge of the bleak question."
Afterward Spielberg confessed that he had never read a poem out loud to anyone other than his wife. "This is a major first in my life," he said. Joking that he was about to embark on another "first," the director introduced a surprise performance by the band Wardell, a duo formed by his daughter Sasha and son, Theo. Later, Paltrow joined the duo onstage to close the evening with a rendition of the Talking Heads' "This Must Be the Place."