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Samsung on Thursday evening hosted a number of celebrities at its 17th annual Charity Gala in New York City. Matthew McConaughey, Kristen Bell, Jessica Seinfeld and Mariska Hargitay, among others, turned out to raise money for their respective charities.
The gala is an initiative of Samsung’s philanthropic platform, Samsung Gives, and raises funds “to help charitable initiatives provide access to education, mentorship, leadership skills and life-saving medical treatment for children all across the country.” This year’s beneficiaries included organizations ranging from the Global Wildlife Conservation to the Lollipop Theater Network.
Ryan Seacrest, this year’s host, stressed the importance of finding a passion and using it to “give back.” He was raising funds for his eponymous foundation, which builds broadcast media centers in pediatric hospitals for patients interested in programming, broadcasting and other creative realms. “For me, I don’t know how to do much other than radio or television,” Seacrest said before the event. “So I wanted to provide and build some sort of escape for patients who are going through some tough stuff, who are very smart, very ambitious, very talented, and they just wanna forget about why they’re in these hospitals.”
Olympian Gus Kenworthy also emphasized the general need for activism and philanthropy. “I think now, more than ever, just because our country is quite divided, it’s important to — whether you’re on one side of things or the other side — align yourself with causes that are near and dear to your heart and try and give back to others,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.
Kenworthy will be embarking on a 545-mile bike ride in 2019 to both raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and benefit organizations like the Los Angeles LGBT Center and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. The seven-day ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles is hosted by AIDS/LifeCycle, the organization Kenworthy was representing on Thursday.
“AIDS and HIV are issues that are still affecting the U.S., particularly the LGBT community and communities of color,” said Kenworthy, adding that 75 percent of people affected by HIV/AIDS are at or below the poverty line. “There’s just so much that we have to do to fight the stigma, raise awareness, help people get lifesaving medication, and I’m just excited to be doing something to help that.”
Hargitay was one of the many celebrities that took the stage to discuss their charity, with hers being the Joyful Heart Foundation, which she founded in 2004 to “help sexual assault survivors heal and reclaim a sense of joy in their lives.”
The Law & Order: SVU star has worked particularly hard to end the national rape kit backlog — also known as thousands of unanalyzed sexual assault forensic exams.
“I’ve said so many times and I’ll say it again, the rape kit backlog is, to me, one of the most dismaying and deeply shocking demonstrations of how sexual assault, and more importantly, how victims are regarded in this country,” Hargitay told the gala’s crowd. “The social benefits of testing the kits are obvious and intuitive. It gets perpetrators off the streets but, at least equally important, is the fundamental and crucial message that testing rape kits sends to survivors: You matter. What happened to you matters. Your case matters.”
McConaughey, who attended the event with his wife and just keep livin Foundation co-founder Camila Alves, helped auction off such prizes as tickets to “Hamilton in Puerto Rico.”
Pitbull, Fitz and the Tantrums and the students of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton Education Program all performed at the event.
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