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Barack Obama wasn’t at the only Hollywood fundraiser on Thursday night. J.K. Simmons, Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti and NBA player Baron Davis supported the Alliance for Children’s Rights annual dinner, emceed by New Girl‘s Max Greenfield, at the Beverly Hilton.
“We had to turn down the president of the United States, forcing him to attend a much smaller event down the street,” joked attorney Leslie Gilbert-Lurie in regards to the fundraising event ICM Partners co-founder Chris Silbermann hosted at his home for the president.
Dinner co-chairs Garcetti and first lady Amy Elaine Wakeland presented the National Champion for Children Award to Matthew Johnson, managing partner at Ziffren Brittenham and his wife, philanthropist and political activist Yasmine Delawari Johnson. Mark Ridley-Thomas of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors received the Francis M. Wheat Community Service Award.
The Johnson’s philanthropy efforts have served as the base of their relationship. Matthew has been actively involved with the Boys and Girls Club for years, where he’s used his Hollywood connections to serve as inspiring guest speakers. Yasmine co-founded Alliance for Moms, an auxiliary volunteer group supporting the Alliance for Children’s Rights in providing children with opportunities such as educational workshops for parenting teens.
“Yasmine and I first met at a small gathering for the Boys and Girls Club, so when your courtship starts with talking to adverse youth about the importance of education, your relationship damn well better live up to those first moments,” said Matthew Johnson.
Past honoree Willie Garson (White Collar), who adopted his 13-year-old son through the alliance, said one of his all-time proud dad moments was when his son presented him with his honor at last year’s dinner, which also recognized Anne Sweeney. During the dinner, Jimmy Kimmel took the opportunity to roast Sweeney for stepping down from such a powerful position in Hollywood as president of the Disney/ABC Television Group.
Garson exclaimed that it’s great to see Hollywood’s powerful voices becoming more involved with the alliance each year. During the early seasons of White Collar, Garson said NBCU Cable president Bonnie Hammer gave him the green light to direct and star in a PSA with his son about the importance of adoption.
“The alliance has become a really strong part of the community here in L.A.,” said Garson. “Being that the business here is entertainment, they’ve tapped into the community very well.”
Fresh from his Oscar win, J.K. Simmons was impressed by the alliance’s services dedicated to the rights of abused and neglected children.
“Honestly, my usual participation is just losing money in their annual poker benefit,” added Simmons. “This is the first time I’ve been able to show up to the dinner, and this is quite a deal.”
Attorneys Cliff Gilbert-Lurie and his wife, Leslie, took a moment to remember Bob Philpott, managing partner of Philpott Bills Stoll & Meeks, who died on Wednesday night.
“For those of us who knew Phil, we miss you, we love you and we wish you were here,” said Cliff. Philpott’s clients included Dick Wolf, who along with his wife, Noelle, donated $25,000 to the organization that evening.
The gala raised over $1.1 million by the end of the night.
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