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It was mostly glitz and glamour in the Beverly Hilton ballroom last night, but in the wake of the recent school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and with its aftermath still making headlines, the Alliance for Children’s Rights 26th annual dinner, honoring NBCU Cable Entertainment chairman Bonnie Hammer, couldn’t go down without a more serious note.
“Recently, we’ve seen so much harm in the world, from the streets of Syria to our schools nationwide,” Hammer said in her acceptance speech for the National Champion for Kids Award, given to her to honor her commitment to the alliance’s mission of protecting the rights of impoverished and abused youth while helping find stable homes for foster care children. “Too often, we failed as a country and as a world in fulfilling the most fundamental and simple of human needs: to protect our children, to surround them with love, to raise them with hope and provide them with opportunity.”
The event was hosted by Andy Cohen of Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live, and had guests such as Suits stars Gina Torres and Sarah Rafferty, and The Arrangement’s Christine Evangelista and Josh Henderson in attendance. American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace‘s Darren Criss performed three songs as the evening’s entertainment.
Hammer was praised throughout the night for her support for the alliance and work ethic at NBCU. “I’ve known her for years,” said Cohen, describing her as “smart, unflappable and flawless.” Torres, while announcing Hammer’s award, said, “While I play a strong boss lady on TV, Bonnie is the real thing.”
Hammer, who revealed she found out at age 12 that her sister was adopted, praised the alliance’s efforts of bringing foster children into stable homes. “I know how my parents changed her life, so for me, watching people actually go out of their way and bring foster kids into their home, into forever homes, there’s no better gift in the world,” she told THR.
Commenting on the recent outcry of youth across the nation after the Parkland school shooting that killed 17 people, Hammer told THR, “I think the kids that are being brought up these days are different from my generation. They have a voice. There’s a reality, or an authentic theme, where they want to be heard.” Hammer, a mother of two, said she believes that kids today, particularly the Parkland survivors, “know the rights and wrongs of the world and they want to make sure that they can help change the world for the better.” That’s why, to her, she adds, it’s important to “[give] an opportunity to a 2-month-old for a forever home, and then seeing who and what they can grow into to have a voice that could change the world, couldn’t be better.”
Selena Gomez’s mother, Mandy Teefey, told THR she participated in the March for Our Lives over the weekend in Dallas, noting, “To see the children speak with such power and stand behind them and watch them grow – it just makes me feel better about my little ones’ future.” Selena Gomez marched in Los Angeles.
Besides testimonies from foster care youth and their parents who found their families through the alliance, the event also featured an auction, which raised more than $200,000 for the organization.
During the second half of the gala, guests were asked to pause for a memorial for former NBCU executive vp, deputy general counsel Jamie Lichtman, who died in November and had served as a board member of the Alliance. “Nothing rivals Jamie’s commitment to family, and his dedication to this organization,” Hammer said.
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