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Just after sundown Saturday, the sound of drums filled the lobby of the Beverly Hilton Hotel as samba dancers flooded into the room.
The Brent Shapiro Foundation’s annual summer spectacular fundraiser had begun. The samba dancers and drummers, along with around 650 guests, filed into the International Ballroom for three hours of auctions, musical performances and awards — all benefitting the foundation’s Brent’s Clubs, which work with at-risk youth to help them graduate high school and stay drug-free.
“Fourteen years ago, we had an event at The Standard Hotel for young Hollywood. We had 60 kids there,” Robert Shapiro, renowned Hollywood attorney and co-founder of the foundation, told The Hollywood Reporter. “We [now have] 5,200 kids in our program who have shown that they can stay off drugs and alcohol until they’re 18.”
Shapiro and his wife, Linell, started the organization after losing their son, Brent, to a drug addiction in 2005. The Shapiros honored Brent by attempting to raise nearly $2 million in one night, and handing out over a dozen college scholarships, three of which were full rides.
“Drugs and alcohol has been plaguing my family for many, many generations,” said one of the full-college scholarship recipients, who is part of Brent’s Club in Malibu, as he accepted his award on stage. “When people hear that I live in Malibu, they think, ‘Oh, he’s rich.’ In reality, I live in a room — a family of four, where my parents work.”
The night also honored actor and comedian Will Arnett with the Spirit of Sobriety award for being open about his own struggle with sobriety and raising awareness for drug and alcohol addiction.
In true comedic fashion, Arnett started his speech with a stand-up routine that left the audience laughing until they had a stitch in their sides.
“It’s a real honor to accept the Spirit of Sobriety award,” he said. “To think that only three years ago, I accepted the Golden Breathalyzer award. What a night.”
He continued: “I’m totally kidding, that did not happen. I kid a lot. It’s a big part of my life, because I think that having a light heart is key for me. It’s important not to take myself too seriously…. What I do take seriously is my recovery, and I owe all that to a lot of great people in my life. Sobriety, to me, is a gift. It’s something that I was fortunate enough to be able to receive, and I’m very, very grateful on a daily basis.”
Arnett and the Shapiros were joined by a list of stars and socialites for the celebratory evening, including Mad Men’s Harry Hamlin, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ Adrienne Maloof, and Dancing With the Stars choreographers Peta Murgatroyd and Maksim Chmerkovskiy.
Many had a personal connection to the Shapiro family and said they were honored to support the foundation and use their platforms to end the stigma surrounding addiction and encourage those suffering to seek help.
“I’ve got kids. I’ve got kids who are navigating this minefield out there, drugs and alcohol,” Hamlin said. “So far so good, but you never know. So, I’ll do anything I can to help in that respect.”
Murgatroyd said she hopes that Brent’s story impacts others the way it has impacted her and encourages people to approach addiction with care.
“The youth that are up and coming right now, they need all the help and guidance they can get when they’re going through their teenage years, dabbling in things that they maybe shouldn’t be,” Murgatroyd told THR. “So, I think that because it is such a sad and touching story, it touches me, and it should be a way of spreading light and spreading guidance on the fact that you can get help and you can get well again.”
The show included upbeat musical performances from singer Pia Toscano and drummer Sheila E., which brought the audience to their feet, and even onstage, to dance.
Lead auctioneer for Barrett-Jackson, Joseph Mast, joined Shapiro onstage to auction off a slew of items, including a walk-on role on The Bold and the Beautiful, sold for $6,000; two floor seats to a Lakers game that sold for $32,000; and a brand-new Ferrari, which sold for $285,000.
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